Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tyson, the Film and the Interviews

Last night I watched Tyson, a movie about Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight boxing champion, by James Toback. I haven't followed boxing since Muhammad Ali retired (and not very much before then), but between allegations of spousal abuse, a conviction for sexual assault, and biting a boxing opponent on both ears, it was hard not to know of Mr. Tyson.

Based on what I "knew," I assumed that he was no more than a brute without impulse control. I came away from the film with a much more complex and nuanced portrait of the man.

Based on the little bit of research I've done on the film (including watching the DVD extras), it appears that in addition to Tyson's complexity and Toback's skills as an interviewer and filmmaker, their long-time relationship helped Mr. Tyson open up in this revealing portrait. This relationship and other aspects of the film and Mr. Toback's history and oeuvre lead one to question his objectivity. However, there is less reason to question his results, in which we can find important lessons about obtaining a deeper understanding of another through interviewing.

A. O. Scott, The New York Times reviewer of the movie (see the link above), points out what a scary figure Mr. Tyson remains even as we come to see his humanity. In this blog, I have usually been focusing on how frightening interviews such as those by the Ministerial Fellowshipping Committee (MFC) and Regional Subcommittees on Candidacy (RSCCs) can be for the interviewees. This movie has led me to speculate more deeply on the emotions of the interviewers.


  1. "This movie has led me to speculate more deeply on the emotions of the interviewers."

    That's kind of a cliffhanger. The interviewers?

  2. What I have found on the net led me to question the objectivity of Toback, the interviewer and filmmaker. But it also led me to look more deeply at the relationship btwn Tyson and Toback, and how the depth of that relationship produced the depth of the film.

    Paralleling this to MFC/RSCC and other interviews, I started to speculate about the emotions and connections of the interviewers to the interviewees. I don't have answers, but I do have a new set of questions for the next time I meet w/ them.