Ron Maxwell Speaks at Brentmoor Event
Director Ron Maxwell: 'Don't let down your guard'
By Gar Schulin
On May 23, the John Singleton Mosby Museum Foundation hosted acclaimed motion picture director Ronald F. Maxwell as part of its reception honoring the Museum and the Authors and Historians Advisory Boards at historic Brentmoor: the Spilman-Mosby House.
Guests included Advisory Board Members and living historians in period dress who enhanced the 19th century atmosphere. Reenactors of Company H, 4th Virginia Cavalry -- the famed Black Horse Troop -- were also present, their steeds picketed in the side yard.
Ron Maxwell has produced and directed major motion pictures and PBS television programs for over 30 years, including such movie epochs as "Gods and Generals" and "Gettysburg, one of the most widely acclaimed war movies ever made.
Maxwell is preparing his final epoch in the Civil War trilogy, to be called, "The Last Full Measure."
Foundation patrons heard first-hand the importance of principles and personal character when making such Civil War period historic films.
"A filmmaker imagining this fiery ordeal must accept the seriousness of the challenge to keep his eyes wide open; to be relentlessly honest; refrain from perpetuating myth and folklore; to get to the truth of the matter," said Maxwell.
"While cognizant of the legitimate sensitivity of all of our fellow citizens, the filmmaker must do his best to keep contemporary pressures out of the work," he continued. "If not, the work risks being a sanitized, lame and gratuitous exercise in political correctness unworthy of its subject, or of the discerning audiences of today, and unworthy of future generations."
Maxwell revealed additional insight into movie production of the Civil War, which represented a massive rupture of our American political system.
"More than a few film critics were outraged that "Gods and Generals" did not perpetuate the victor's myths of a war waged against an evil Confederacy," he said. "They cling to their simplistic wisdom as if it were holy writ. It is not the job of the filmmaker to reinforce the prejudices and tastes of the critics, the prevailing elites or even of the general public.
"The filmmaker must resist in advance the pressure to say the right thing -- utter the expected phrase. It may be a good career move and it may seduce a critic or two, but it will only invite contempt in the long run," he added.
Concluding his remarks, Maxwell paid the citizens of Warrenton and Fauquier County a high compliment.
"I've visited many small town American settings, looking for locations for movies over the years," he said. "What a delight to see how well-preserved this old town is," he said. "It is an honor for me to be with people who have not let down their guard -- or who will not let down their guard."
The work continues
Foundation President David Norden thanked all who have been a part of the Mosby Museum project, and noted that over $950,000 has been raised to date, with $650,000 in grant money secured to complete construction of the new Warrenton-Fauquier Visitor and Education Center, due to begin construction this summer, 2004.
Another $137,400 must be raised to complete all exterior wood trim restoration and painting. The interior restoration represents the final phase of renovation, with museum-grade specifications and enhancements.
The home will be fully restored to its Victorian period appearance in the fall of 2005.
Warrenton Mayor George Fitch told the assembled guests, "Primarily because of the Mosby Museum, Warrenton is one of two Virginia finalists -- the other is Williamsburg -- for First Lady Laura Bush's Preserving America's Communities Award."
Those seeking more information or wish to support the work of the Foundation may call (540) 351-1600, or visit the Foundation's Web site: http://www.mosbymuseum.org
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