SILVER SPRING— On May 29, print journalist Bob Woodward made an appearance at the Silver Spring American Film Institute (AFI Silver) after a sold out showing of the movie “All the President’s Men.”
AFI Silver kicked off its Fourth Estate Film Series, which covers the world of journalism, with a screening of the 1976 film “All the President’s Men” and a question-and-answer session with one of the Washington Post journalists the movie is based on, Bob Woodward and the Watergate Scandal.
According to the national branch of AFI, the theater building in Silver Spring was saved from demolition through a community effort by Montgomery County residents and given a landmark designation to keep it in its place.
The building underwent renovation and reopened to the public as an AFI theater and cultural center back in April 2003.
“This marks another milestone in the history of Silver Spring, the day that the Silver Theater emerges from the dust of its past to become a showcase for films of all genres,” said former Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan at the time of the renovation. “The AFI Silver undoubtedly will become an internationally known landmark in the world of film.”
AFI Silver shows movies and film that are generally hard to find at conventional theaters.
“The AFI Silver will present an unprecedented variety of both American and international cinema in an ongoing series of festivals, screenings and special events, including filmmaker interviews, panels, discussions and musical performances that place the art on screen in a broader cultural context,” wrote AFI of the newly renovated theater.
AFI Silver was originally designed by architect John Eberson in 1938, according to AFI. The building houses three theaters — two stadium style and one historic — along with space for meetings, reception and exhibition areas.
AFI Silver opened its doors for a 7 p.m. screening of “All the President’s Men,” starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as two Washington Post journalists uncovering the Watergate Scandal.
Woodward stumbled upon what seemed to be a minor break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters housed in the Watergate Hotel prior to the 1972 presidential elections.
Upon further investigation, it became clear that the story went well beyond basic burglary.
Woodward, alongside fellow Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein, uncovered a story that would end a presidency.
The real-life Woodward received a standing ovation from the crowd at AFI Silver before beginning the question-and-answer portion of the night, moderated by Washington Monthly Editor-In-Chief Paul Glastris.
Woodward, a former Sentinel reporter, noted how the movie accurately dealt with the mistakes he and Bernstein made in working on the story.
“It dealt quite forthrightly with the mistakes, particularly on the Haldeman story,” Woodward said. “I think in many ways that was the worst mistake of my life; we thought we were finished.”
But through more investigative work, the two were able to connect H. R Haldeman, who served as Nixon’s White House chief of staff, to payments allotted to the burglars.
Woodward noted in the discussion his worries over the current political climate and fruitless investigations into President Donald Trump.
“I’ve worried right this week that there are these investigations of Trump and the Mueller Report (that are without direction). The lesson is the independence of the media is not just that we’re not going to be pushed around by the president, but we have to look at the justice department investigation,” Woodward said. “It would be a shame in the Trump case if we don’t investigate on our own. I don’t mean investigate the investigators; I mean, find sources (of our own).”
Woodward explained that investigative journalists need to research and gain access to the President’s tax returns and work on finding new sources to question.
“I do think there are more sources, I have found people that Mueller didn’t talk to,” he said.
Woodward, of course, maintained his source’s privacy just as he did when he was covering the Watergate Scandal.
The sold out theater was filled with people enthralled by the Watergate story; many had lived through it.
Theresa Lochte was one who lived through it and remembered hearing about the scandal. She said that she was in her mid-20s when Watergate was front-page news.
“I lived Watergate, and I am living Trump,” she said. “I kept up with all the politics, I worked for former presidential candidate George McGovern. I was involved, and now I’m old and retired but still involved.”
Judd Proctor was another attendee who remembered the Watergate Scandal.
“Woodward is so well known, and people trust his judgment and his answers, so I think that’s what brought the crowd out and that’s what brought me out. He talks in a thoughtful way; you can trust what he says,” Proctor said. “I remember at that point I was in high school, so to me it wasn’t that central to my life, but to see President Nixon leave in the helicopter was shocking.”
AFI Silver will continue its Fourth Estate Film Series and its journalism theme into June with movies like “Broadcast News” on June 5 and “His Girl Friday” on June 16, among others.