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And Justice for All

ML: The courtroom speech from Daniel's uncle, about the suffering of the family, is obviously a very powerful moment. Tell me about your involvement, as a filmmaker, with Daniel's family.

DA: I had to make a tough call. Daniel's mother was in the courtroom, and she cried the entire time. I approached the family, but they didn't want anything to do with the press. So I felt that, out of respect for the family, I was not going to show the mother grieving. The uncle was fair game, because he was part of the court proceedings.

Blythe in the Czech court

ML: In general, how do you decide what to use and what not to use?

DA: I have my moral line, but that's it. If I'm shooting something and people are okay with me shooting, and it works within the context of the story, great. That's how we make the decision — if it's helping to serve the story. If not, we don't use it.

ML: So what happens when you have a tension between serving the story and serving your subject?

DA: It has to be the story. You struggle with it, obviously — because making documentaries is a very personal experience. You get to be friends with people. You get embedded in their lives. They confide in you and they trust you. You take all that and you have to turn it into a cohesive 90-minute story. You have internal conflicts — is Randy going to be okay with that being seen? - but at the end of the day, it's about the story. We can't hold back, because that's not fair to the audience and it's not the way to make a documentary, to get to the truth of a thing. Do I show [someone] crying? Is that going to bum him out? I have to. It's the right thing for the story, and I think people will respond to the truth of that. It's what really happened, and it works.

"People will respond to the truth of that."

ML: Final question and it's a long one. One of the guys talks about how he imagines that for the Czech judges, a rock and roll show means Neil Diamond. And I started to imagine what it would be like to investigate the whole scenario of Daniel's death from a real outsider perspective, just using what your documentary gives. I even made a list. The Indian girl who loves Lamb of God says she's drawn to the aggression of it, and she sings a lyric - "My redemption comes from your demise" - which is violent. The guitarist Slash says that "things happen all the time" in the "exaggerated party atmosphere" of concerts. The fans you show at the concerts are always in a state of near frenzy. And finally, Randy says that the shows are chances for people to get their demons out. People have some pretty damaging demons, and when you let them out, terrible things can happen. It made me wonder - is heavy metal dangerous? Not in terms of corrupting the youth with evil lyrics, but in terms of creating a dangerous environment?

DA: As soon as all this went down, it was like heavy metal was on trial. It's not really hard to demonize. It looks really scary from the outside, and frankly, it looks pretty scary from the inside. You can see: it is a frenzied environment. That's what it is. It's like trying to make football safer: you can take precautions, but it's an inherently violent sport. That's what it is. You're not going to take heavy metal and put seats in the venue and have people sit down as if they were at an opera. That's not what it is. Nobody's saying it's not a dangerous environment.

"Nobody's saying it's not a dangerous environment."

But I think the way to soften that is to show how it's also a community. If people do fall down, they're more than likely to get picked up by the people around them. The people want to stick together; nobody wants anybody to get hurt. But again, that's part of the ritual or whatever of going to a metal show — that ability to let loose. That's why the first half of the movie illustrates why people let loose. Then it comes to pass in the second half of the movie that people see this culture from the outside for what it is, and it's terrifying.

ML: I read once where John Cleese said that Monty Python broke up "because we woke up one morning and we weren't angry any more." He may have been joking, but it's clear that a lot of their comedy came from a place of deep anger at the way the world was. It seemed to me that the same thing could happen with a metal band: waking up and not being angry any more. These guys seem to have exorcised a lot of their personal demons: Randy getting sober, other guys getting married and settling down. Then they have to go and make this angry music. It felt in places like this was their job: making this music even if they themselves weren't full of rage.

Mark Morton on his porch

DA: Yeah, I thought that was one of the interesting places the film went. There's something interesting in the idea of growing older and playing this very aggressive music. Mark says it beautifully: "I'm not a martyr. I love playing guitar for a living. But that's one part of me. I'm also a family guy. I have a daughter and a wife, and I love being at home." I think a lot of the guys are settling into the reality of that, and they're asking, "How long are we going to keep doing this?" In the beginning of the film, they're admitting that they're not best friends, that they're not as excited to jump on the tour bus. But then when it threatens to end, and not on their own terms — I think it was Mark who said, "I realized I've taken a lot of stuff for granted."

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