If all you know about Joseph Pulitzer is that he created the Pulitzer Prize and merged two newspapers to form the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, then the Missouri History Museum’s upcoming screening of “Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People” at 7 p.m. on Oct. 24will open your eyes to a whole new view of the eponymous man.
Narrated by Adam Driver, and featuring the voices of Liev Schreiber, Rachel Brosnahan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Lauren Ambrose, Sebastian Stan and other prominent Hollywood actors, the film examines the life and legacy of the father of modern journalism.
Here, filmmaker Oren Rudavsky, who will be at the screening to take part in a Q-and-A afterward, shines a light on the importance of Pulitzer’s story.
“When Bob Seidman approached me with the idea of making a film about Joseph Pulitzer, all I knew about him was that he had created the Pulitzer Prizes,” Rudavsky says. “When I started to dig into who he was, I realized that he was not only a really interesting guy, but that he was quite relevant to the moment we were in in America, which is the Trump era.”
A major advocate for freedom of the press, Pulitzer published everything he thought was news.
“He didn’t care whom he harmed,” Rudavsky explains. “He was an equal opportunity offender and critic of the way things are in the world. He was progressive.”
Pulitzer’s story is an important one to tell for many reasons.
“Our democracy is at risk; our newspapers are at risk,” he says. “Many world leaders are hellbent on manipulating the truth to their ends, and journalists lives are threatened every day.”
One of the most powerful aspects of the film is “the moment that one realizes that past and present mirror each other,” according to Rudavsky, as well as, “the commitment of the man to truth and democracy and the knowledge that a free press is essential to a democracy. It’s easy to say, but hard to enact and maintain.”
Pulitzer eventually went blind, so the last 20 years of his life, he was managing and micromanaging his newspaper with a whole slew of secretaries, who would send messages to the editors at the newspapers on a daily or multiple times a day basis, Rudavsky explains.
“He was impressive and interesting to me because of his maladies and his ability to overcome them, and because he came over as an immigrant and became fabulously wealthy but maintained his progressive ideals,” he says. “I admire that because it’s very easy for people, once they get comfortable, for their ideals to change. His did not.”
Viewers may hear a few recognizable voices in the film too.
“I knew Liev Schreiber and his background as Hungarian and Jewish, and he’s one of the most brilliant actors of his generation. Once he was in, all these other amazing actors were happy to give a bit of their time,” Rudavsky said.“The most satisfying part of making the film was when you’re really close to done, and you go into the sound mix, and you hear all this music, this wonderful music by Olivier and Clare Manchon, and the wonderful voices of Adam Driver and Liev Schreiber and all the other terrific actors that played a role in it, and you see all the careful work that your associate producer and editors, and all the fights and disagreements and considerations that go into making a film, and the thousands of decisions, when you go into the sound mix and you see the film as a whole and realize that you feel like you made most of the right decisions.”
After the film, Rudavsky will be happy to answer any questions.
“I love going to screenings where the director is there,” he said. “It makes entertainment into something more engaging for the viewer. It gives a window into the creative process. It gives one a chance to challenge parts of the film you may differ with or see differently.”