The Reeler
The Sundance Blog

"The Idea is to Take a Stand": Morgen Premieres Chicago 10

By Eric Kohn

Chicago 10 filmmaker Brett Morgen at Sundance's opening-day press conference (Photo: STV)

Brett Morgen finally seemed in his element Thursday night, after his inspired documentary Chicago 10 opened the Sundance Film Festival. Earlier in the daythe filmmaker had sat onstage alongside festival founder Robert Redford and director Geoff Gilmore while fielding questions from hawkish reporters trying to unravel the film's political proclivities. In the decidedly less formal setting of the afterparty, Morgen seemed to glue a beer bottle to his hand and a smile to his face. "This movie was so independent," he said. "I had a staff of two people. The crazy thing is that we were invited to open Sundance. There were maybe seven people, outside of the animation, who worked on this movie. It was a tiny, homegrown project. It was so organic."

The movie consists of a surprisingly vibrant blend of animated dramatization and rare archival footage recounting the protests and violent aftermath following police incursion outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Although the animated sequences (which use motion capture technology and separately recorded voiceovers) clearly demonstrate the invalidity of the court case brought against a select few members of the "Yippies" protest group, Morgen insists the he doesn't aim to be preachy. "This movie isn't a left wing film," he said. "They're attacking Democrats, for Christ's sake. This is a movie about power. I said straight up, 'I am not making this film for liberals. I'm making this film for people on the left and on the right.' The idea is to take a stand."

Several high profile Hollywood performers lend their voices to the film, including Hank Azaria, Mark Ruffalo and Nick Nolte. The oldest of that esteemed bunch made a brief appearance at the party to give photographers a place to aim their lenses. Although urged by The Reeler to address what it was like to work with a director several years younger than the subject matter (Morgen is in his thirties), Nolte pretty much just discussed Vietnam. "I lived it," he said. "I was 28 and I was already a felon, so I couldn't go into Vietnam. So we were living it every day. We were trying to figure out how to get out of that war."

Nolte did find a way to tie the underlying story of Chicago 10 into modern times. "I think it has relevance: to see the will of the people," he said. "The resistance had a purpose. I did this piece because I read the script, and I saw what it was about. I've got to support the people who have voice."

Although the proverbial festival buzz is strongly in favor of Morgen's film, he remained tight-lipped about developments with regard to its distribution, disclosing only that "four or five" different companies had expressed some interest in acquiring it. So far, he's been lucky with the business end of things, having easily persuaded Participant and River Road Entertainment to finance the production. "I didn't have a treatment or anything," he said. "I just gave a pitch for a movie that was about an attitude. I'm really happy with where the film is. I feel like we made the movie we wanted to make."

Posted at January 19, 2007 11:28 AM

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