‘Confirmation’: Clarence Thomas 2.0


Maria Cardona

Len Amato, board of trustees member and president of HBO Films, presented an April 5 advance screening of HBO’s most recent film, “Confirmation,” and encouraged the audience to look at the story from many sides.

By Campus Reporter

Board of trustees member and President of HBO Films Len Amato is back at Columbia with “Confirmation,” a multidimensional film that will sway opposing characters, even if they had previously picked sides, he said during his recent visit to the college.

The Office of Development and Alumni Relations hosted an advance screening of “Confirmation,” HBO’s new film directed by Rick Famuyiwa and written by Susannah Grant, on April 5 at the Film Row Cinema auditorium in the 1104 S. Wabash Ave. Building.

The movie, which will premiere April 16, returns to 1991 to tell the story of Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court nomination hearings in which young University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill accuses him of sexual harassment. Actor Wendell Pierce, who has performed in TV series and movies including “Selma” and HBO’s own “The Wire,” plays Thomas, and actress Kerry Washington, most recognized for her role as Olivia Pope in the TV series “Scandal,” plays Hill’s character.

The movie was followed by a Q&A during which moderator Ron Falzone, associate professor in the Cinema Art + Science Department, asked Amato, a 1975 alumnus of the then-Film Department, about the film’s release during a politically charged time, given the upcoming presidential election and recent nomination to the Supreme Court, as well as the objective approach its producers took to telling the story, and the direction HBO Films is headed.

“With HBO films, what we like to do is subvert expectations,” Amato said. “[With] some of the films we do, we like to tell a story where you think you might know what it is, and then we surprise you when it dives a little deeper. This film fits that category.” 

Amato said the film required plenty of research, including interviews and exploring news archives to make sure they told the “essential truth.” 

“It felt like it would be a great story because there was this intersection of gender, politics [and] race,” Amato said. 

During the Q&A session, junior cinema art + science major Jeremiah Baffour-Oséi asked Amato how directors were chosen for the film and if there were other candidates for the positions. 

Amato said film director Rick Famuyiwa’s recent success with the movie “Dope” at Sundance Film Festival and his interest in politics made him a good fit for “Confirmation,” especially considering the  film’s political nature.

Director of Board Relations Heather Gallenbeck said the event was an opportunity for Amato, one of the college’s most successful alumni, to engage with students and have a “prime time” discussion with them.

“Supporting the students at Columbia is core to the mission of the board of trustees, so any opportunity we can have to bring [the members of our board] within the student community we feel is very important,” Gallenbeck said.

Falzone said Amato characterizes himself as being open with students, something that does not always happen with guest speakers visiting the college. For Falzone, the best thing students can take from such an event is not the Q&A discussion but the personality of the guest. 

“What is really special about the film is that it is not so much about these two people [Thomas and Hill],” Falzone said. “They are actually portrayed in the film more as victims  [of] what went on. It is really about the ways things get decided in this country.”