America, Fuck Yeah!

Manners, shock value, traditional values and freedom of speech all collide in Fuck: A Fuckumentary

A title like Fuck: A Fuckumentary should fill plenty of Edwards Island seats for its April 23 screening as part of the 2006 Newport Beach Film Festival. When enough people discover it's a film with such talking heads as Steven Bochco, Pat Boone, Ben Bradlee, Drew Carey, Chuck D., Billy Connolly, Sam Donaldson, Janeane Garofalo, Ice-T, Ron Jeremy, Alan Keyes, Bill Maher, Dave Marsh, Judith "Miss Manners" Martin, Michael Medved, David Milch, Alanis Morissette, Tera Patrick, Dennis Prager, David Shaw, Kevin Smith and Hunter S. Thompson—in probably his final filmed interview—all coming together to discuss the word fuck, it should be a guaranteed sellout.

But there's oh so much more to Steve Anderson's documentary. Mixing those and other one-on-one interviews with archival footage, man-on-the-streets and clever animation by Bill Plympton, Fuck gets at why fuck has so much power.

Hyperbole? No fucking way, dude. Not when one falsely slipped fuck during a live broadcast can bring down a television network. Not when mommies drive their Voyagers off cliffs upon hearing little Johnny unleash his first fuck from the car seat. Not when the word's long and steady creep into everyday culture has been used by some misguided souls to deny you your constitutional rights.

"A lot of freedoms in this country are being eroded, especially with the FCC and religious right having their way with George Bush in office," says Anderson, who is battling the lingering effects of the flu as he speaks on the phone just before stepping onto a plane for yet another film festival. "Freedom of speech is something that always needs to be debated. If not, it could slip away.

"It's like Lenny Bruce says in the film, that if you can't say fuck, you can't say fuck the government. You can't say fuck George Bush, fuck whatever. It's an opinion we have a right to express, and I don't want to have that right taken away from me."

Just a breezy 93 minutes long, Fuck: A Fuckumentary is every bit as entertaining as it is informative, which is probably why it's already become a proven winner on the film-festival circuit since its November debut.

"It caters to them because it's a little edgy, and festivals try to be a little edgy," says Anderson.

Depending on the company you keep, fuck can be part of casual conversation or it can be the ultimate exclamation point to a particularly heated exchange. As the old George Carlin routine went, fuck somehow changed along the way from being solely a crude way to describe sexual intercourse to a synonym for great violence, death even. Of course, Carlin took that notion to far more hilarious extremes, changing a standard line from old TV westerns to, "We're gonna fuck you, sheriff. But we're gonna fuck you slow."

Anderson's film makes similar, seamless shifts from the sexual to the violent and back to the sexual again (and even the violent sexual, as porn star Tera Patrick and her husband, Biohazard singer and Oz star Evan Seinfeld, are only too happy to share while describing their various coital positionings). Perhaps Fuck's greatest public service is dispelling the old wives' tales about the word's origins. Surely you know folks who will swear on a stack of Bibles that fuck is an acronym for Fornication Under Consent of the King or For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Not true, not true.

But describing all things fuck over footage and 'toons is one thing. How the hell did Anderson get all these celebrities to appear in his documentary?

First, you have to know more about him. Anderson worked at the PBS station in his native Rochester, New York, for several years, racking up seven national awards for his documentaries. He moved to California about 15 years ago for a more steady paycheck as a CNN cameraman out of the Los Angeles bureau. Anderson sort of specialized in shooting entertainment events for the 24-hour news channel, something that came in handy when he decided a few years ago to chuck his news career for his true love, filmmaking. The contacts he had made helped get his projects launched.

His first indie feature, The Big Empty, starring actor/filmmaker Jon Favreau, didn't lead to a 10-picture deal with Paramount, but it did give him an appreciation for Newport Beach's film festival, which in 2004 bestowed its Outstanding Achievement by a First Time Filmmaker award to Anderson for Empty.

But getting stars onboard for a potboiler set in the desert is one thing.

"Well, we did get quite a bit of people questioning it, honestly," Anderson concedes of the pre-production for Fuck. "Of course, it was called the Untitled F-Word Project a lot of the time, even while we were filming, but we never hid the fact of what it was called." Since his project put so much import on that one word, he says, "it didn't seem honest to call it anything but that."

He says he got past a lot of image-conscious agents and managers thanks to a Rolodex stuffed with celebrities' home numbers or their most personal contacts, culled from his CNN days.

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