What Movie Did He See? | Letters | Chicago Reader

What Movie Did He See? 

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Dear Editor:

I read a Jack Helbig review of Juan Ramirez's film Israel in Exile that was sponsored by the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum [Movies, May 4] and became confused as to how a paper that came out on Thursday, May 3, could contain a review of a film that didn't have its world premiere until the following day (May 4). Upon further investigation, I found that Mr. Helbig was basing his review on a demo tape that he received as part of a press packet. A packet that clearly pointed out that what was contained on the tape was a work in progress.

The rough edit that Mr. Helbig reviewed was dated August 2000. Juan Ramirez's final visual edit was not completed until March of 2001, and the final sound mix, which greatly affects exposition, transitions, and how long a scene can hold, didn't happen until April 2001. Judging by the cynical slant of the review, I understand that it is perfectly possible that seeing the finished product might not change Mr. Helbig's opinion of the film. But after spending four years of putting Israel in Exile together, and after all the time, money and effort that we all put in working towards the May 4 premiere, I think that we deserve to be reviewed on the finished work and not on an incomplete tape edit from almost a year ago. I don't know whether it was laziness or arrogance that led Mr. Helbig to handle things in the way that he did, but anyone who was not in attendance at the premiere of the film at the Chicago Theater on May 4 and claims to have seen the work is incorrect.

Carlos Tortolero

Executive Director

Mexican Fine Arts

Center Museum

Jack Helbig replies:

It's standard practice for critics to receive tapes for review before a premiere. That the version I got was the one I reviewed should come as no surprise. Especially since there was no warning on the tape to suggest that it wasn't fair game.

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