LEONARD: Political Prisoner

Incident at Pacific Palisades

December 03, 2020 Man Bites Dog Films Season 1 Episode 8
LEONARD: Political Prisoner
Incident at Pacific Palisades
Show Notes Transcript

According to the documentary’s director, accomplished filmmaker Michael Apted (Coal Miner’s Daughter, Thunderheart, The World Is Not Enough), Robert Redford ruined “Incident at Oglala” out of fear of upsetting the powers that be. Although Redford was scarcely involved in the production of the documentary, he became heavily involved in its post-production, exercising his authority as executive producer to censor the final cut. When Mr. Apted objected to the omission of a vital section of commentary from two circuit court judges criticizing the handling of Leonard’s trial, he was overruled and banned from the film’s Sundance premiere.

INCIDENT AT PACIFIC PALISADES


Michael Apted:

He behaved very badly. Bobby.


Interview with Michael Apted:

I was so angry with him about it that we didn't speak for 10 years, and it went to Sundance. And he wouldn't let me go with it. (laughs) And I liked him. I mean, I thought he was all right. He's a bit precious and all that.

VO:

This is the noted English filmmaker Michael Apted talking about Robert Redford who produced his seminal Peltier documentary “Incident at Oglala” in the early nineties.

Michael Apted:

It was a very disturbing, let's say I was shocked when he started trying to, well, I mean, he succeeded and you know, as you know, editing the film.

Andrew:

Messing with your cut, right?

Andrew:

Why did he want it out, just cause he was afraid of the...

Michael Apted:

Yeah, he didn't want to, obviously, I mean, he just didn't want to be in any trouble with the powers that be, which if you're Robert Redford sounds a bit weird, doesn't it? Right. He is a power that be. He's bigger than them, but that was so disappointing because I was so thrilled to get that interview because they were very clear, these two guys. They weren't friends or anything like that, but they stepped up and talked about, um, you know, I mean, you could use this, I mean, I don't care, I don't want to abuse Redford in, cause we sort of made it up, but it was really disappointing. You know, he was, he was never really in it. I think that he always thought he was guilty. That he didn't share our enthusiasm for thinking it was a set up.

VO:

You’re listening to Leonard, a new podcast series about one of America’s longest serving political prisoners, Leonard Peltier. I’m Andrew Fuller. 

And I’m Rory-Owen Delaney. We’ve spent the last year working to share Leonard’s story with a new generation of people: who he is, how he ended up behind bars, and why we believe he deserves to go free.  

In this bonus episode, Michael Apted opens up about creative differences with producer Robert Redford over the editing of “Incident at Oglala,” differences that compromised the documentary in the eyes of its director


[WILD AUDIO]

Andrew:

Well, we're off to see Michael Apted, long time coming.

Rory:

This has been in the works for months. He was in England working on the new Seven Up, whichever iteration he's on, he's on 63 and up or something crazy by now. I would guess.

As luck would have it, Michael was in Los Angeles after finishing the London post-production on “63 Up,” the final installment of his epic award winning television documentary series, Up.  The first installment “7 Up,” came out in 1964. 

And we are on our way to his condo. Rory is behind the wheel. I’m riding shotgun.

Andrew:

Did you [inaudible] has Leonard emailed anymore?

Rory:

I haven't checked my email since we last sent him that note.

Andrew:

Cause you don't get that through to your regular email. You have to actually go to the server.

Rory:

You have to log onto this CORR links thing, but I'll check it. We'll check it today. Send him an update.

Rory:

I wonder when the last time he talked to Leonard and all that was.

Andrew:

It must've been probably in the nineties.

Rory:

I guess, sounded like it had been awhile. I meant to reread Leonard's letter, but I printed it out. At least.

Andrew:

It's funny, Apted, as I was reading his Wikipedia and they were saying most of his feature films had female leads and that was like--

Rory:

Revolutionary.

Andrew :

Oh, he's so ahead of his time, because now everything's female leads and everybody wants the female leads.

Rory:

Coal Miner's Daughter. Yeah.

Andrew:

Coal Miner's Daughter, Gorillas in the Mist. That was one of my favorite movies growing up.

Rory:

Dang I was going to rewatch that.

Andrew:

That's just a great movie. And then he directed Jodie Foster again in Nell. 

VO:

James Bond: The World Is Not Enough also ranks among Apted’s 78 directing credits on IMDB. Michael also served as the president of the Directors Guild of America. So no pressure.

Rory:

All right. We are 10,000 feet from Sunset Boulevard. We're on the PCH, there's people surfing and uh, we're getting close here. Point eight miles miles to Apted. Now where?

Andrew:

Straight.

Rory:

Just winding up Sunset, up this Hill here. Wind up winding, winding, winding up.

Rory:

Oh shoot. We missed it. We're here. What was the address?

Andrew:

There should be a guard.

Rory:

None of this looks Apted worthy. 

Andrew:

You must've missed it.

[CAR HONKING]

Andrew:

Fuck you.

Rory:

That was like the most delayed horn of all time. By the way. 

Andrew:

It should be right up here on the right.

Andrew:

I hate Waze.

Rory:

We have to switch to googs. 

Andrew:

"In 500 feet. Make a U-turn"

Rory:

There's like no way to turn here either. This is the Worst place to Do a U-turn, Sunset Boulevard on the side of a Hill.

Andrew :

Must be this tall one. That's it?

Rory:

Oh, this whole deal. I see it. That's a hard one to spot. There we go.

Rory:

Hey, how are you? Pretty good. We're here to see Michael Apted. 

Guard:

Oh, okay. Let me give you a parking pass.

Phone:
"In 600 feet. Your destination will be on the left."

Guard:

Okay. You can park by the tennis courts.

Rory:

Thank you. You too. Go left. Second building.

Andrew:

Jesus, this view is fucking amazing. It's quite a little complex in here.

Rory:

It's bigger than I thought it was. Yeah. Tennis courts. Hey cool. Should've brought our tennis rackets.

Andrew:

Yeah.


Andrew:

Jeez. Yeah, this is, I'm kind of like, I'm a little nervous. I'm not nervous, but.

Rory:

Well, you should be a little bit.

Andrew:

Well, yeah, I'm excited though. It's like, it's like excited nervousness. Yeah. Yeah. Just to hear what he says. I mean,


I guess I was nervous too because within five minutes of meeting Mr. Apted I had accidentally trod upon one of his dog’s paws while setting up for the interview.


Michael Apted:

We've been together for years and their mommy is sick in hospital. So we're having a short time with them. But they get on, well, the three of them little. Yes. But when they first meet someone it's chaos, but we learn to ignore it. Yeah.

Michael Apted:

Shut up. I'm getting a bit tired of it. Okay. Alright. 

[DOGS BARKING]

Michael Apted :

[inaudible] Rory can’t be trusted. I'm sorry. 


[DOGS BARKING]

Michael Apted:

So a $50 dollar bill wouldn’t hurt... Charlie, shut up.

Michael Apted:

No, I'm not, I'm not. So if they start off, I'll move into the back room unless someone truly kicks them in the head.

Rory:

Yes. That always wins them over.

Andrew:

That's a great apartment. 


Michael Apted:

 Yeah. That's all right. It was nice. Yeah. Great view. My wife is in London. 



VO:

Michael was occupying a penthouse suite with ocean views in the hills of Pacific Palisades, an exclusive neighborhood in Los Angeles located just off of Sunset Boulevard and the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu.


Michael Apted:

I came to do Coal Miner's Daughter. 

Michael Apted:

Got me going straight away. Yeah. I stayed and did some American movies when I brought the family. I mean, I got citizenship fairly early.

Andrew:

I mean, Gorrillas in the Mist was one of my favorite movies growing up. Yeah. I cried so much.

Michael Apted:

I didn't do anything mean, did I? 


Andrew

I was just, no, it was just so devastating. What happened to her.


Michael

Yeah. I mean, the truth of the matter is I think is that they had to get rid of her. She was destroying the trade...


VO:

Gorillas in the Mist tells the true story of naturalist Diane Fossey and her work in Rwanda with mountain gorillas. The movie was nominated for five Academy Awards in 1988.




Michael

All they had was the gorillas. Right. And she was, you know, she got balmier and balmier. Yeah. But what a life, you know what I mean? She really did give her life to them. 


Andrew

Yeah. Incredible.

Michael Apted:

Have you seen him in prison?

Rory:

I have not seen him yet. I was talking to paulette, who's heading the defense committee right now and she told me that, um, because we never met Leonard before his incarceration that she was trying to tell me there's some kind of a rule about seeing a federal prisoner, if you don't have a relationship prior to...


Michael:

Wow. How old is he now?

Rory:

He's going to be 75 in September.


VO:

This interview was recorded in May 2019. Leonard is 76 years old now.


Michael:

And how's his health?

Rory:

It's not very good. Um, he has, uh, he said that he's got some black, he's got some spots on his lungs now. And then he's got some sort of blockage in one of his arteries and they won't give him surgery until it reaches a certain threshold, essentially. So he's very worried about having something go wrong and there won't be enough time to get him to the hospital.

Michael:

Um, he likes being alive?

Rory:

Yes.

Michael Apted:

When you think how long he's spent in prison? Unimaginable, isn't it? Probably before you were born?

Rory:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. He was, uh, in prison at the, in the seventies. I was born not until 1981.

Andrew:

I was 80. Yeah. So--

Michael Apted:

That's pretty sobering thought, isn't it?

Andrew:

Right.

Rory:

That was one of the reasons we got interested in the project especially with Trump and the FBI shenanigans that are going on now, um, and, Jared Kushner and Kardashian helping prisoners, people get out of prison, you know, honestly, it seems like from talking to his lawyers his most likely chance of getting out is from a presidential pardon from Donald Trump.

Andrew:

If you can believe that.

Michael Apted:

That's a horrifying thought.

Michael Apted:

(Laughter) Whatever it takes, right? Frightening thought to people like us. If he actually got him out, wouldn't it? Oh my God, what would we do? We'd all have to kill ourselves wouldn't we? That's a horrific idea.


[DOGS barking].

Michael Apted:

Sorry boys, we're being a bit hysterical here.

Andrew:

We feel your pain.

Michael Apted:

Well, it would be a brilliant thing for him to do, wouldn't it? I suppose 98% of his followers would think he'd gone balmy, but it would be a very skillful way to make us think twice, wouldn’t it?

Michael:

Did you meet any of his lawyers?

Rory:

Um, uh, Leonard's lawyers. We've spoken to a couple on the phone, but we haven't met any.


Michael Apted:

I got quite close with one of them. Can't remember which one it was? He'll be in the book.

Rory:

Is it Bruce Ellison?

Michael:

It's Bruce. Yeah.

Rory:

Yeah. He's still, he's still speaking. Yeah, I still, so that's another guy who had been on our list.


VO:
Bruce Ellison was Leonard’s attorney for decades and featured heavily both in Peter Mathiessen’s book “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse” and Apted’s documentary “Incident at Oglala.” We’ll hear from Bruce in Season 2 of the podcast.



Michael:

When was I doing this, in 19? Did you say 81? Or no...

Andrew:

'92.

Michael:

Yeah. So he's probably changed out of all recognition.

Rory:

He's still got a ponytail. Yeah,

Michael:

Does he? Bless his heart. No, he was, he was a good guy. I mean, he certainly didn't, he was not half-baked about it. I mean, he really got stuck into it and you know, I suppose they did put themselves at some danger too.

Michael Apted:

Have you spent a lot of time down there?

Rory:

In Florida?

Michael Apted:

No. I mean, in, in where it all happened?

Rory:

I actually have not, we have not been yet... I think that's probably a worthwhile trip to do. 

VO:

This was before we made our pilgrimage to South Dakota at the invitation of Edgar Bear Runner. To call it a worthwhile experience is an understatement. If we hadn’t made the spur-of-the-moment trip in August 2019, this podcast would’ve been grounded until the pandemic lifts. Whenever the fuck that is.


Rory
You went to the Pine Ridge reservation to shoot?

Michael Apted:

Oh yeah, yeah. Shot in all the places that it happened. But we were still 15 years late and we were hardly on the, on the, on the site and all that kind of stuff. Um, but you know, there were some nasty people, but I mean, you sort of know it. I mean, I don't say they’re nasty people period, but on this issue, people won't be moved about it, they either believe he's innocent and it was a set-up or they believe he was a thug. Um, but uh, you know, they, they were very open about it. ‘Cause I mean, the harassment had finished. I mean, the cops weren't…


Rory:

Dick Wilson was dead.

Michael:

Which prison did you see him in?

Rory:

He's in Coleman prison right now, which is outside of Orlando. Um, and I believe you were in Leavenworth.

Michael:

Yes. Leavenworth, which is notorious, with a lot of very bad people are there, aren't they? 


VO:

Some of Leavenworth’s past inmates include "Machine Gun Kelly", Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo, Tom Pendergast, James Earl Ray, “Whitey" Bulger Jr., and Michael Vick.


Michael Apted:

They treated us pretty well in the prison. They didn't, they didn't, they weren't all over us. I'm sure there was always someone around, but they weren't obtrusive.


Michael Apted:

I can't recall any tremendous supervision of it. I mean, I'm sure there was always someone in the room, but you didn't feel, they were saying you can't ask that question or doom doom doom. Which sort of slightly surprised me, but they let us do our business.

Andrew:

Did you go in as like media or?

Michael:

No, we went in as what we were making a film about it.

Rory:

Right? Sure. I think Coleman is supposed to be, The warden is supposed to be more draconian. I think it was part of the reason why they sent him down there.

Michael:

To Florida?

Rory:

Yeah. Farther away from all his family, you know. He's from North Dakota, so he wants to be transferred somewhere closer, but they've got, 'em just shanghaied down in Florida. 

Michael:

Have you ever gotten the feeling that you're being watched?

Rory:

Actually remember when we were driving home and that weird car pulled up right next to me, and you were like, what is that? He doesn't remember, but I got paranoid that it was the FBI, because we'd just come from Kathy's, I was on the 101 and this weird car pulls up next to me with a guy in it. I didn't look, you got a better look at them. Cause I was driving, but I just saw, and they were looking over at us and they were like perfectly parallel to us. It was just weird.

Andrew:

Oh I do remember that now.

Rory:

And you said maybe they think you are famous or something. Yeah. And I was like,

Andrew:

Well in LA, everybody thinks everybody's famous.

Michael:

Right.

Andrew:

I don't think we've been at it long enough to ruffle any feathers. And that was before Leonard had called you, but maybe?

Rory:

Well, Kathy says they watch her. Um,


Michael:

Do they?

VO:

Kathy Peltier is one of Leonard’s daughters. She lives in Los Angeles. She was the first person we interviewed for the podcast.


Rory:

She says every now and then there'll be an unmarked car following her, her and her mom. Uh, so I wouldn't put it past, I wouldn't eliminate it.

Andrew:

Don’t these guys have anything else to do?

Michael:

I mean do, do you get the feeling that Leonard has gone balmy? With it all.

Rory:

Um, I mean, definitely I do wonder about it. His state of mind, 

Michael Apted:

I got a letter from him, which we should probably look at.

Michael’s Assistant:

They were the ones that forwarded it.

Rory:

Yeah, yeah. I have it right here.


VO:

The other voice is Michael’s assistant. And what I had right there was a printout of the email Leonard sent for Michael. 


Peter Coyote reads for Leonard once again.


From:  LEONARD PELTIER (89637132)

5/5/2019 9:09:56 PM

Subject:  RE Michael apted.


Message:


Hey, Hello Michael it's been a while.  Please accept my apologies for not keeping in touch.

I feel like a heel now for not doing so and wish I could make it up somehow. I don’t really know why I haven't. It wasn't anything personal or I was ungrateful for your efforts to help me. Also for not keeping in touch with Robert.


I always believed I would not be in here this long. I was so certain someone in the DOJ, judge etc would correct what they did and I could then go to you and tell you my appreciation in person. What a fool I was for even hoping for this, let alone thinking and praying for this to happen.  BUT here I am WITH NOT A MINUTE THAT GOES BY AND I’M still dreaming and hoping, BUT NOW IT’S JUST so I can go home to die.  AND AT LEAST TO SAY GOODBYE TO MY FAMILY AND PEOPLES.


VO:

Michael studied Leonard’s email with consternation.


Michael Apted:

So he could write this to me and they wouldn't change it or anything like that.

Rory:

I don't think so. And they're not supposed to.

Michael Apted:

Oh they're not?

Rory:

Yeah. He said that if you give him, uh, your address and your phone number, he can add you and he could call you or you could email through this corrlinks system.

Michael Apted:

Sure.

Rory:

But I know he was excited to hear that we were coming to talk to you.

Rory:

He did randomly call last Sunday, not this previous Sunday, but um, cause I'd sent them my information. And so then of course I'm getting ready to go to my father in law's 70th birthday party and the phone's ringing. Of course it was Leonard. Um, so I did get to talk to him for about 15 minutes and then...

Michael Apted:

Oh good. How did he sound?

Rory:

He sounded actually pretty, pretty well sounded better than I thought he was going to sound. He was excited to speak to us and you know, obviously he was pretty fired up about the situation.

Andrew:

There's still that feeling of desperation, I think obviously.

Michael Apted:

Well, it’s in here too, isn't it?


VO:

Michael reviewed the second page of the email.




From:  LEONARD PELTIER 

9:21:13 PM

Subject:  ;Dam it pushed the wrong Button


Message:


Sorry Michael BUT I accidentally pushed the send button. :(


I don't know why I have had to live this kind of life and or go through it.  In the beginning I did not want any more then to just have a decent job and good wife and raise a family, and just to forget the treatment I had to go through in this life. But then I seen it wasn’t just me but all Natives had to go through the same thing and in many cases worse. How native women, Children, elders or defenceless men was so abused and beaten to death and the guilty party not going to jail or a very light sentence.


Nevertheless we and some of my friends have not given up and they promised me to stay until the end. So I also have to stay strong and continue the fight.  BUT Michael, I could use some help and with your skills you can help a lot. Also if you can would you contact Robert R. and ask if he can help us somehow? Thanks Brother. Please tell Robert I send my greetings and love. 


Doksha L.P. 


VO:

As Michael read the letter to himself, we could only imagine the thoughts running through his head. 


Michael Apted:

Good, yeah. It's hard to know what to do, isn't it?

Rory:

Yeah. It is hard.

Andrew:

Yeah.

Michael Apted:

Rather than, you know, building up expectations and then not being able to deliver anything. Must be frightening. Hmm. 

Michael Apted:

I always felt bad that I could never really do anything about it.

Rory:

Do you remember your last interaction with Leonard? Was it just that day?

Michael Apted:

Oh yeah. I've only met him once. Yeah. We, I've had one or two correspondence, but I think he gave up on me. Y'know, he, uh, since I wasn't part of the culture or anything probably thought that was just a homosexual Englishman. As it were. Well, um, you probably you'd probably think, I am with all these dogs around...

Andrew:

I think he said something in his letter, actually he said that he was sorry that he hadn't.

Andrew:

Kept up with you more.

Michael Apted:

Yeah. well It's really me to keep up to him.


VO:

After the break we dig into what exactly went down between Michael Apted and Robert Redford.


Rory:

How did you decide to make the film?

Michael Apted:

I can never, I get confused. I never, I don't know which came first. Um, Thunderheart, or that?


VO:

Michael made INCIDENT AT OGLALA in 1991, the same year that he directed THUNDERHEART starring Val Kilmer, Sam Shepard, Graham Greene and John Trudell.


John Trudell:
We choose the right to be who we are. We know the difference between the reality of freedom and the illusion of freedom. There is a way to live with the earth and a way not to live with the earth. We choose the way of earth. It's about power, Ray.

VO:

That’s John Trudell playing Jimmy Looks Twice, an Indian activist suspected of murder in the film inspired by the real-life events surrounding Leonard Peltier. 

In the scene Jimmy is talking to the character of Ray Levoi, played by actor Val Kilmer, an FBI agent with Sioux heritage investigating the homicide of Leo Fast Elk, a tribal council member of the fictitious Bear Creek Reservation.

Thunderheart was shot primarily on location in South Dakota and included specific sets on the Pine Ridge Reservation. 


Michael Apted:

So it was at least 10, 15 years late. I mean, but when I went there, I did two of the two films together, um, Thunderheart, and that, uh, you know, it created serious difficulties with, with me having done Thunderheart, you know, because a lot of them felt that, you know, that he was guilty and all this and they gave me quite a hard time, you know, they weren't open as they were about their subject, but they weren't that didn't really like talking about, uh, Leonard, which was a pity because I think they could have told me more, but they sort of didn't trust me because I was going from side to side, I suppose. But...

Andrew:

As you do as a documentary filmmaker.

Michael Apted:

Well, sort of, yeah. And it was scary too. I mean, you know, it's still, I mean it was 25 years after, the troubles, you know, but it was still very much alive there. The war was still going on between.

Andrew:

Did you ever get any sort of threats or feel threatened?

Michael Apted:

We did get told to push on and get out of here and all that. And it was a bit frightening sometimes. It was complicated. Cause I was sort of, I think I was sort of doing them both at least within the same half year. It wasn't one was like 10 years after. So I was out there doing this film and doing Thunderheart and you know, a lot of people were sort of aware of both and who is he? What side? Is he going to try and say that, uh, that Peltier was set up by the whole thing or is he, am I a serious supporter of the Indian movement and sympathetic to the, you know... But it was an interesting experience to do.

Michael Apted:

I mean, this is, you may not want to hear this, but it was an interesting experience to do similar almost simultaneously, a film and the documentary about the same subject. Taught, taught you a lot about what you could do in a documentary and what you can't do in a documentary and vice versa, you know, it was, it was kind of, and they both, they both informed the other as it were, you know, you couldn't cut your brain in half and this is the Peltier brain, and this is the, you know, the other one, but it was, it was a remarkable experience, but it caused us a lot of fear and loathing. I mean, you know, people you know, when, especially when the other side of the, you know, of the Indian movement, when we were dealing with them, you know, who, some of whom were convinced that a Peltier was a maniac and all that kind of stuff.

Michael Apted:

I mean, it was pretty tense with them.

Andrew:

And the goon squad.

Michael Apted:

Yeah and all that. I mean, you saw some of the remnants of it. I mean, it wasn't anywhere near as full as it was in his time, but it was still pretty scary. And I mean, I still think there's quite a residue of it still. There's still a lot of ill feeling on all that, you know, the, the, the other side, they were horrible. You know, the people, the half white men and all that, you know, the politicians and all this, they were horrible. Whereas the Native Americans were not, you know, the native...

Andrew:

They just wanted to live on their land in peace.

Michael Apted:

Yeah. So it was very confusing and difficult, but one of the richest times I had just comparing the two in a, you know, in, in the way you approach a documentary and the way you do a fictional film, that was very, very interesting and what you could do and how you could mix them and all that kind of stuff.

Michael Apted:

Cause that came to me as a script by...

Michael’s Assistant:

DeNiro?

Michael Apted:

Not DeNiro, no, who was the writer? Who's very knowledgeable about all this.

Michael’s Assistant:

Fusco.

Michael Apted:

What?

Michael’s Assistant :

John Fusco.

Michael Apted:

John Fusco. Have you ever been in touch with him? Well, he's probably the most prolific educated American screenwriter about Indian movements. And you know, I think he is, become Indian in a sense. I mean he's not, he's probably from, you know, somewhere but not there, but I mean, it's been one of his life's things and he's, he's a good writer and he'd be worth talking to if you're going to sort of deal with the film a bit. Cause I think it was his idea. He took the idea to Redford, um, you know, cause...

Andrew:

So Redford was involved with both the scripted and Incident at Oglala.

Michael Apted:

No, no he wasn't. He was only, he wasn't interested in the scripted one.

Andrew:

Just the documentary.

Michael Apted:

Just in the documentary. Then as it turned out in a rather kind of minimal way, he kept away from it all in it. He never showed up or anything. And I just thought, this is just going to be your usual, um, famous producer getting his name on it. But then he started digging into the cut and digging into some of the more, you know, some of the more difficult areas. It really, I think it ruined the film. I think that that, that little section with those two judges, it was very powerful because they had no, you know, they, they weren't involved in it at all personally, but nonetheless, as the judiciary, they were involved there, you know, if they had thought that the judiciary have behaved badly, which they did. That was a real shock. That was, that was really the best thing in the film.

VO:

Michael corresponded with Redford over fax regarding their creative differences about the documentary. The back-and-forth is remarkable. 

Michael Apted:

But it was, it was, I was really disappointed with this because of Redford, you know. I think we had stuff that was really powerful that he would not let me use, and he wouldn't let me go to Sundance in case I, um, spat it out, which I would have done. Fuck it.

Andrew:

Um, well, that's kind of what Sundance is about, isn't it?

Rory:

What was it?

Michael Apted:

Oh, it was these high court judges. Saying it was, the trial was very badly handled and it wasn't a fair trial.

Rory:

Right.

Michael Apted:

And it's one thing when a load of Indians say that but when two judges on the circuit say that it's a little bit different.

Rory:

And he just didn't want to include that?

Michael Apted:

No, he didn't want to annoy the, you know, the powers that be. It was really strange because I thought it was the most interesting part of the film. I mean, it wasn't the biggest part of the film. Probably wasn't more than five, ten minutes long, but it was so fucking powerful. And so believable. These judges, you know, had, were in the circuit and all this kind of stuff, they knew what was going on. And they were pretty pissed off with it. The fact that, you know, it had happened. That the miscarriage of justice had happened. And then, you know, we were going to screw up by not playing it.


Michael Apted:

Redford was horrible about it. 


Andrew:

Yeah?

Michael Apted:

It was much stronger, the film because I managed to get a couple of circuit court judges from that part of the world to talk about it. And so what they thought the trial was very poorly handled and Redford saw it and he insisted I took it out.

Andrew:

Really?

Michael Apted:

Yeah. Just that one item really, which was incredibly powerful, I thought.

Andrew:

Because he was the producer. Right?

Michael Apted:

It was so complicated the whole thing with so many people and so much politics involved in it all.

Andrew:

So do you, do you still have an archive of any of your old footage or?

Michael:

Not footage, but I do have...Um, I've got a lot of paperwork and I didn't get rid of it. Did I? Got the transcripts and stuff. Yeah. I've got all the interviews I did with him. If that's of any value to you. Um, you know, because I did keep a lot of stuff, a lot of, kind of, not to you, but to most people tedious stuff. Cause we've got, we've got so much stuff over this 20, 30 years, 40 years I've been here. Um, but I could certainly dig that out. There's quite a lot of it it's that it's, you know, it is the interviews I did with him.

Michael:

Because he was pretty open. I’ll go and get it out for you.


Andrew

That would be amazing. Thanks.


Michael

You live here right?


Rory

Yes, we’re here.


Michael

I seem to have retired, so I'll go and have a look for it immediately.

Rory:

Wow. That'd be awesome. Yeah.

Michael:

Cause I always wanted to keep it cause I wonder how this could ever be used. Cause we only used a tiny bit again, I think probably thanks to Redford,

Andrew:

And the stuff from the judges, you know,

Michael:

That was awful.

Andrew:

...may be amazing..

Michael:

I don't, I don't know where that would be. But uh, I don't mind going into it again, having a look at stuff or getting stuff out here for you to look at, but I do keep a lot of material on that.

Michael Apted:

I mean, they were very good to me. The Indian movement, they all showed up in the film. I mean, if Nixon had been president, they would have probably been arrested for doing, passing around all these lies and whatever against the government.

Michael Apted:

So shall I look out more of my transcripts?

Rory/Andrew:

Yeah, definitely. That would be a huge, yeah, that would be amazing, That'd be great.

Michael Apted:

Cause I see them up there in a thing. I think, what am I going to ever do with it because I'm never gonna write a book about it. You know, I didn't didn't know enough. Um, I was 15 years behind it all, but I will get in ASAP. I'm not doing much at the moment and uh, you can take it off and have a look at it.

Rory/Andrew:

That would be great, yeah.

Michael Apted:

You can copy as any, any, any of it. You like, there's a lot of it. Shit.

Michael Apted:

Anyway, we'll dig it out.

Rory:

Cool. That'd be great.

Michael Apted:

Next couple of days you can take it off and have a look at it. You can print any of it. It's our property. It's the film company’s property. Mr. Redford's property. He can go fuck himself… Strange man.

VO:

A couple days later, true to his word, Michael invited us over to collect the files. He met me in the lobby of his building.

Michael Apted:

Where is your vehicle?

Rory:

Just right up there. Top of those yellow steps. Should I bring it down here or?

Michael Apted:

I'll drive up there.

VO:

Michael drove me up a little hill to my car in visitor parking. 


Rory:

Well, thanks for digging this out.

Michael Apted:

It's nice to know that it's well, especially that he's alive and anything we can do to..

Rory :

Yeah, this is going to be a big help.

Michael Apted:

Good. There's a ton of stuff. This is just him. The interviews we did with him. And some of the...Which is your vehicle.

Rory:

Uh, this white Prius, right? Uh, right here on the left. Here you go.

Michael Apted:

Yes. That one. THere you go. Go. Right. [inaudible]. Where did you want to put it there?

New Speaker:

Yeah. Perfect.

Michael Apted:

This is, a box of, anyway it's all marked up.

VO:

Michael lugged a heavy duty storage supply box from his trunk to mine.


Rory:

Awesome. That's all of it, right?

Michael Apted::

That's all the Peltier stuff.


Michael Apted:

I think it's all clear.


Rory:

Yeah. Yeah. I'm sure we'll figure it out. And if we don't, we can get some advice from you guys.

Michael Apted :

Ok well let's keep in touch.


VO:

The box contained some two dozen black binders consisting of 40 plus interviews. Although there were a few missing,  it was still a cornucopia of information, which included the transcripts from the three judges Redford had controversially censored.


In Season Two we’ll scour this treasure trove of documents to uncover any hidden diamonds left on the cutting room floor as we make the case for why Leonard should go free.

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Leola Bear Runner, who passed away from COVID-19 this month. 


This podcast was produced, written and directed on Tongva Land by Rory Owen Delaney, James Kaelan and Andrew Fuller. 


Kevin McKiernan serves as our consulting producer. 


Thanks to Bobby Halvorson for the original music we’re using throughout this series.


And thanks to Mike CAZentini at the Network Studios for his engineering assistance, and to Peter Lauridsen and Sycamore Sound for their audio mixing. 


Thanks to Paulette Dough-TAY for her tireless work leading the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee.


Thanks to Peter Coyote  for giving Leonard a voice when we only had his words on paper.


Thanks to Michael Apted for documenting Leonard’s story and sharing his research with us.


And thanks, most of all, to Leonard Peltier.


Sign Off: To get involved and help Leonard, sign the new clemency petition at freeleonardpeltier.com. For more information, go to whoisleonardpeltier.info or find us on social media. @leonard_pod on Twitter and Instagram, or facebook.com/leonardpodcast.


This podcast is a production of Man Bites Dog Films LLC. Free Leonard Peltier!