Mike Wallace Is Here

Mike Wallace in MIKE WALLACE IS HERE. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures (2).jpg


Maryland Hall Bowen Lower Theater Wed, May 29 7:00 PM


MIKE WALLACE IS HERE offers an unflinching look at the legendary reporter, who interrogated the 20th century’s biggest figures in his over fifty years on air, and his aggressive reporting style and showmanship that redefined what America came to expect from broadcasters. Unearthing decades of never-before-seen footage from the 60 Minutes vault, the film explores what drove and plagued Wallace, whose storied career was entwined with the evolution of journalism itself.


Never before has journalism in America been so hotly debated. At a time when it seems like the hard-hitting question is fighting for its right to be asked, MIKE WALLACE IS HERE turns the tough question loose on its inventor to understand how we got here and what’s really at stake. Legendary newsman Mike Wallace unflinchingly interrogated the 20th century’s biggest figures in over fifty years on the air, and his aggressive reporting style and showmanship redefined what America came to expect from broadcasters. Unearthing decades of never-before-seen footage from the 60 Minutes vault, this documentary portrait explores what drove and plagued this restless reporter, whose storied career was entwined with the evolution of journalism itself.

“Take a look at the history of any nation which has lost its freedoms, and you’ll find that the men who grabbed the power also had to crush the free press” — Mike Wallace

We witness now on a daily basis the dangers of a fractured and disrespected press. Echo chambers abound, talking heads toe party lines, and politicians attempt to convince the public that facts—and truth—don’t matter. The sharp-edged, astute documentary MIKE WALLACE IS HERE looks for inspiration in a different time, in the work of one of the most fearless, confrontational broadcast journalists of the last 50 years… and finds motivation for those holding truth to power in the present day.

MIKE WALLACE IS HERE is told exclusively through archival footage, without one talking-head commentary or backward-looking interview diluting the immediacy and power of Wallace’s work. The film traces his career on the air from his invention of the “tough question” in his 1950s interview show Night Beat to his news specials of the ’60s and his extraordinary four decades on CBS’ 60 Minutes, examining how his genre-defining work changed the standards of broadcast journalism for good and for ill, while unpacking the personal qualities that made Mike tick.

Director Avi Belkin had unlimited access to CBS News’ archives for the making of the documentary, including never-before-seen raw materials and outtakes from 60 Minutes’ earliest days on the air. Drawing from that and other sources, including the University of Texas at Austin where Wallace’s early kinescopes are stored, he crafted the story of Wallace’s path from radio drama announcer to early TV actor-pitchman to hard-hitting journalist—an incredible career trajectory that ran parallel to, and influenced, major transformations in broadcast journalism over the course of the 20th century. “I had full access to the CBS vault and scoured thousands of hours of interviews and broadcast work. That included never-before-seen raw footage of some of the greatest interviews ever conducted, shot beautifully on Super 16mm film,” he says. “Not just 60 Minutes, but also archives of old shows, commercials, early acting jobs, and interviews other people did with Mike. This was the first time 60 Minutes and CBS News have ever opened their archives completely to an outside filmmaker. I had my pick of over 50 years of unparalleled archival footage… it was a dream.”

MIKE WALLACE IS HERE resonates at a moment when journalism and the American press corps are threatened by a government intent on sowing constant doubt and spreading distrust of the media. “The idea for this film originated with a question: how did we get to the place broadcast journalism is at today?” says Belkin. “Mike was era-defining, yet he was so prescient in many ways. For him, journalism was about asking the hard questions, and in doing so, speaking truth to power. Now, the powers that be fight back against journalism. [The government] is focused on giving one very subjective point of view, with all else labeled ‘Fake News.’”

“We’re at a very precarious tipping point for broadcast journalism, where the different corridors of power are getting the upper hand,” says Belkin. “A crucial moment in the film is when Mike says ‘the first thing that totalitarians do is attack the free press.’ I wanted this film to show how the free press is imperative for a democracy, and how asking hard questions is the core of what journalism is about. Audiences today don’t want journalists to confront them with uncomfortable truths or tell them something that runs against their beliefs, and people with power take advantage of that and are fighting against the public’s right to know.”

“This pushback from the powerful against journalism is the story of the last 30 years of broadcast journalism, and now we can see where it’s becoming dangerous to our democracy,” says Belkin. “Journalism needs to have integrity. If people don’t believe in it, its power is diminished. Hopefully, by telling the origin story of broadcast journalism, MIKE WALLACE IS HERE will remind people how we’re missing journalists who are willing to fight that by asking the right questions.”