An Apology To Sono Sion

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
Let's just jump right into this, shall we?

Four days ago Twitch published an interview conducted by Pierre Hombrebueno with director Sono Sion at the Venice Film Festival which was meant to cover the premiere of his latest work (now award winning), Why Don't You Play In Hell. It raised some eyebrows due to comments ascribed to Sono as regarded fellow directors Miike Takashi and Kitano Takeshi and among those eyebrows were Sono's for the very simple - and very reasonable - reason that he hadn't said any of those things while meeting Hombrebueno in Venice this year.

It turns out that Hombrebueno had pulled excerpts from an earlier interview with Sono which he conducted in 2010 in connection with the premiere of Cold Fish and spliced those statements into the text without delineating what was said when or, indeed, why the old stuff was even relevant. And the end result was a piece that made it appear Sono was - for lack of a better term - spending part of his time in Venice this year shit-talking both Miike and Kitano when that had not, in fact, happened and all there was to tip people that something off may be happening was a one line note at the end of the interview noting that some pieces of an earlier interview had been used, though which pieces was never made clear.

To put it simply, I personally - along with the rest of the Twitch editorial team - was appalled when I learned that this had happened. As is the case everywhere, we have to assume a certain degree of responsibility from our writers when they join the group and simply don't have the ability to double check the audio tape of every interview conducted before running the articles, but regardless, this should not have happened. We take accuracy and integrity very seriously here and offer a sincere apology to Mr Sono. I'm sure we're not as upset about it as you are, but we're not far behind. The article in question has been removed, will not be re-published in any form and Hombrebueno is no longer associated with Twitch.
Around the Internet:
  • Arnprior

    So, a Twitch writer pulled an "Operation Genoa?! Good call from Todd; we already have enough "news" orgnisations and people twisting and fabricating and manipulating facts however they see fit, it's sickening. If Hombre can't even realize the nature of what he did, than he's guaranteed himself a job at Fox News - congrats Bro!.

  • Bos

    My 2 cents, if anyone care, from a reader.

    I don't think that Hombrebueno would have gained anything from Sono Sion saying that he likes, or not, those directors, am i wrong?

    So i think that all he did was a "mistake".
    "Sono Sion likes pizza" instead of "Sono Sion hates pizza" is just a mistake, there is nothing to gain from MAKING Sono Sion saying one thing or the other one by purpose.

    Hombrebueno had a very bad idea to mix 2 different interviews, but that's it.

    Was all this really necessary? The "public punishment" instead of a common Erratum, or "EDIT: our last interview was wrong" like it happens every day in every websites?
    And he was fired for that or he choose to leave? because if you fired him for that, well, i find this to be quite exaggerated.

    To me, this looks like a misunderstanding between an interviewer that got a "strange idea" and the subsequent editorial phase (made by someone else?) that did a bad mix of the informations.

    I mean, someone can laugh for an error like that, take it with a smile, but all i read here is pure tragedy! "Sono Sion please forgive our sins, and the staff member responsible for this is now dead"....
    but nothing so terrible happened if you ask me.

    If tomorrow in a news someone write: "....the trailer for this movie coming January 4th" and instead the movie is coming February 4th, i think that you just press the "edit" button and then maybe write "sorry guys, was February" but it's not a tragedy, and no one get fired for that...

    ----
    Well, Hombrebueno, I don't know you but i can say that you've got a very bad idea to mix 2 different reviews and this is true. But i don't see any "evil plan" or something more behind it, so i think the punishment is unfair.

  • Guest

    Here here here.. i'm really disappointed. I follow Twitch since geological ages and, if my memory helps me, a thing like this never happened.
    You guys must know that i'm a French Journalist. And you should know that if in my country a sheet or a website used the same treatment that you used against your collaborator it would be considered from everybody as a disgusting and disgraceful OUTRAGE to our profession.

    Mr Hombrebueno, you've done nothing wrong. it was twitch that made the mistakes by changing the titles and messing everything around. It's just normal to mix sentences to give a broad view of a interviewee, and it's just perfect if it's declared. These people, on the other hand, got scared by Sion's protest, didn't take full responsability and didn't support you, choosing to kiss his feet and kickin' you out with theirs to be happy ever after with the big man.

    So Twitch staff, you're turning out bad and fell for good in my consideration, Shame on you

  • A French journalist posting using an Italian email address and an IP address that puts them in Isorella, which is - hey, look! - a stone's throw from where Pierre last posted from. Nice try, Pierre. And on that charming note I shut down the comments thread on this post before things get even stupider.

    (You were too slow deleting the first post and trying again with the anonymizer. Whoops.)

  • Brian Clark

    Thank you for your comment, but respectfully, there is actually an enormous difference between "Sono doesn't like pizza" and "Sono says Miike is dead as a filmmaker." Working filmmakers disparaging other respected, working filmmakers is a lightning rod for page views, and attention. Public loves conflict and so on. It is a way of making a story more sensational and dramatic, which can indeed be great for a site --- if the drama is accurate. I would be a bit perplexed in Sono didn't like pizza I suppose, but I wager most people wouldn't care that much. As for the release date analogy -- that is a fact, whereas this is a quote about someone's opinion. Release dates are easily looked up and corrected. But if your quote has been retweeted and reposted internationally and there's no interview that simply says, "Sono did NOT talk shit on Miike and Kitano in 2013," then this is something that can do real damage. Much more than a mistaken release date.

    To go a bit further -- If Pierre had simply contextualized the quotes -- that is, if he had asked Sono about these filmmakers in 2013, INCLUDED his response, and then used those quotes to contextualize the question, clearly indicating that they were from 2010, there would be more shades of grey here. The fact is, he made no attempt at responsible journalism. He added a few quotes that had nothing to do with the arc of the 2013 interview, or anything that was said in it, simply to bait readers and make the article more dramatic. It's tacky, and beyond that, it's completely irresponsible journalism. It not only discredits us, but it's insulting to our readers. Furthermore, if Sono has since made amends or retracted these comments, either personally or publicly, in the THREE YEARS that have passed since he said them, running them without asking for a follow-up does personal damage to him. Completely unnecessary personal damage.

  • Basic ethics of journalism: Be accurate. You can't put words into someone's mouth in an interview. Ever. Under any circumstances. You can't skew context. When conducting an interview you are essentially acting as a channel between the person you're interviewing and the audience reading it, and it's not at all your place to alter their meaning. Anyone who can't understand that is not welcome as a writer here at Twitch.

  • Bos

    Thank you both for the reply.

    I can see your point, you are right, i just feel a bit "sad" for the guy because i think he wasn't thinking to harm somebody.

    But this is a trusted website, and of course you must care about the quality and reliability of your writing staff.

  • p.h

    i've already talk with todd and i think there's nothing more to add, but i'll just repost here the same stuff i've written in facebook regarding the controversy:

    days ago, an interview of mine with sion sono was published on twitch. the one where he said that miike and kitano were dead. i've noted, at the end of the interview, that the article was a mix of a 2013 and a 2010 interview. that was clear, written black on white, it didn't "turned out" like it was a fuckin surprise. the readers were aware that it was a mix, and that some statements were taken from 2010. it was done to have a more complete view of the thoughts of the director, covering 3 years of his career. but at the end, sion sono's publicist wrote us, stating i was inventing stuff to make flames, and that i shouldn't have mixed the interviews. the 2010 part has to remain secret, since in the meanwhile, the director changed his mind and now apparently appreciates miike and kitano. that is just fine and legitimate, everybody could change idea about anything. i just don't get why publishing 2010 statements should make me a dishonest idiot, since it was clearly noted in the article. anyway, the interview got pulled off. and i no longer write for twitch. i wanna clarify that i never had any penny from it, all was done for passion and personal sweat, since it's a website that we all appreciate a lot.

  • p.h

    To underline the fact that it was mix interviews covering different moments i even just entitled the article "sion sono interview". It was twitch's editor that changed the title in "sion sono venice 2013 interview" even though it was already specified that there were parts from 2010.

  • What you're not addressing here, Pierre, is that you asked THE EXACT SAME QUESTIONS to Sono in the 2013 interview about Miike and Kitano and for some reason that you have never explained, and without mentioning in the interview what was what, chose to exchange the answers he gave you in 2013 (which I suppose you just found boring) for the ones he gave you in 2010. We have confirmed this with the translator who conducted the interview with you.

    If that's not clearly, obviously, and with full knowledge on your part misrepresenting what Sono feels and thinks now, I don't know what is. It's unacceptable behavior in any forum, and a decision that you have failed to explain despite being asked to do so by both myself and the publicist who arranged the interview. It's such a bizarre thing to do that I have literally never heard of anyone doing anything even remotely similar.

  • p.h

    oh no todd. absolutely NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. i actually didn't ask anything bout miike and kitano in the 2013 interview. i was actually telling the publicist that the translator got confused, since the question about miike and kitano was done to Jun Kunimura (who worked with both, so i asked what he thinks are the difference between those directors), and not Sion Sono. i'm sure that Kunimura-san could confirm that, since that was the only question the round table addressed him. people should verify first before shouting false sentences

  • p.h

    and yeah, italian journalist giampiero raganelli was with my same roundtable of 2013. he's confirming that i asked the question to kunimura, and not sion sono. so stop bullshitting, thanks

  • Right, Pierre. You put three year old words into a man's mouth without any context, and I'm bullshitting. Good riddance to you.

  • p.h

    yeah, i put 3 year old words in a man's mouth specifying in the article there were 3 year old words in the interview. i wouldn't have any problem on highlighting the 2010 parts, since i have nothing to hide. so if the format was wrong, you or one of the editors could have just told me to do so. i mean, you had the time to change the title but not to check the format? what are editors for?

  • You know what editors don't expect to have to do? Watch out for writers deliberately misrepresenting their interview subjects. They don't expect to get angry messages from filmmakers insisting (100% correctly) that they didn't say what the writer in question is saying they said. We expect writers to understand that an interview is an actual conversation that included in a set space and time, within a fixed context, and not some work of fiction that you can cobble together using scraps lifted and stripped of context from over a span of years.

    Man up and take some responsibility, Pierre. You did something stupid. And you've been called for it. Continued public belligerence does nothing but make you look worse. You want to do some actual damage control, here's an idea: Start by answering the repeated questions of why you did this in the first place. What were you trying to accomplish. You've been asked that over and over again, and you continually refuse to answer.

  • p.h

    hahaha, so why did you change the title?
    the reason why i joined 2 interviews was simple: i wanted to publish a sort of career interview, with the Sono thoughts over the years, from then to now. i had this cold fish unpublished stuff, so i thought it would be cool to bring it up, specifying in the article that the statements went from 2010 to 2013. the miike and the kitano stuff were not the only parts from 2010, even the part where Sono said he would like to act one day was from back then. they were interesting quotes, and that's why they were inserted in. the right title for the interview should have been: "Interviews with Sion Sono from 2010 to 2013". Not "Venice 2013 Sion Sono Interview", as you changed it.

  • RoboticPlague

    So is there a position opening soon? If so I will take it!

  • Less Lee Moore

    I'm so sorry that happened. People can be real assholes.

blog comments powered by Disqus
​​