Oscar-nominated director Matthew Heineman faced a fierce backlash from diversity detectives after announcing that he would be creating a two-part HBO documentary on Woods last week, fielding accusations of “perpetration” and “upholding systemic racism”.
Heineman’s decision to work on the film with Emmy nominee Matthew Hamachek – who is also white – heralded a torrent of “essential questions” about the backgrounds of the team behind the project on Woods, whose vast list of achievements include becoming the first African-American to win the US Masters when he lifted the trophy at the age of 21 in 1997.
“Having yet another white man whiffs of colonialism and otherness,” said one of the comments, joined by others who claimed that the documentary industry needed to be “decolonized” and that “posting Black Lives Matter memes doesn’t cut it.”
“Maybe Matthew hired black and Asian crew members,” they sarcastically added. “Oh, wait…no. Of course not.”
Heineman and Hamachek, who have previously collaborated on ‘Cartel Land’, an Academy Award-nominated documentary about Mexican drug lords, caused more fury among eagle-eyed proponents of political correctness by announcing that white director and producer Alex Gibney would also be an executive on the show through his Jigsaw production company.
“Tiger Woods has inhabited our collective consciousness as a prodigy, a pioneer, a champion, a global icon and then a tabloid headline,” said Heineman, calling the project team “amazing”.
“After months of research and countless hours of revelatory conversations, we discovered that he has always been a projection of outsized expectations.
“His father, his sponsors and his fans all made Tiger Woods into the person they wanted him to be. Our goal was to dive deeper and create an unflinching and intimate portrait of a man who, like all of us, is imperfect and inherently human.”
Despite Heineman’s stated aims, his respondents said the team he had assembled were incapable of reflecting the “real complexity” of Woods’s story. “We need some answers,” argued one.
“We need transparent, honest discussion. Tiger’s story is so powerful because it comes at the intersection of race, class and gender, beyond the often-used ‘we’re all imperfect’ theme.”
“White privileged filmmakers continue to frame us,” complained another. “This is extractive and exploitative filmmaking, to say the least. They continue their colonization through their cameras. Really disappointing.”
Having been asked why he had failed to include a black or Asian director and told he was “in a great position to be a positive example”, Heineman conceded that he “absolutely should have done more” to “diversify our crew.”
“I wish I could go back in time and change things,” he wrote, confessing his regret at having “profited from and been a part of perpetuating” an “unjust and inequitable system”.
“My privilege has opened doors and I also understand that my privilege affects my storytelling perspective. I must actively prioritize inclusion of other perspectives in the projects that I undertake.
“I really, truly hope the conversation…can lead to meaningful change and I commit to learning, to engaging, and hopefully helping to be part of this change.”
Emmy-winning director Daresha Kyi had urged Heineman to respond, adding: “Please dig deeper into how you do and do not uphold systemic racism through your actions.”
The New York Post pointed out that a similar discussion had not taken place around the recent hit Michael Jordan documentary, ‘The Last Dance’, which had a white director.
Twitter users questioned the need for the statement by Heineman, with one saying: “Someone had to apologize for not having at least one [director who was] black or brown.
“Next it will be no women, then no Asians, then no Indians, then no Irish.”
“This is too much now,” warned an educator. “At some point, cancel culture has to stop.
One reader said: “These people need to grow up and stop inciting race wars. This is pathetic.”
The verdict on Heineman’s original post remained unanimous. “There should not be a white film director for Tiger Woods’ character – a black man,” insisted one reply.
“We are tired of the white gaze. Hire black and Asian people for this film in creative positions of power, not just as consultants. Any filmmaker or programmer supporting this film, and films like this, are tone deaf. This is unacceptable. It’s insulting.”
HBO and Jigsaw did not issue official responses. Heineman expects the documentary to air in December.