Sundance opens with call to speak out against war

The Sundance Film Festival opened on Thursday night with an innovative movie harkening back to Vietnam anti-war protests and a call by actor/activist Robert Redford for an apology by United States leaders.

Redford, whose Sundance Institute for independent film backs the annual festival, said in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks he, like many others, showed a “spirit of unity” with President George Bush and others who backed the war on terrorism and led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

“We put all our concerns on hold to let the leaders lead,” Redford told a packed audience for the opening-night documentary film, Chicago 10.

“I think we’re owed a big, massive apology,” he added.

Sundance is the top gathering in the US for independent film, and typically in his opening night address, Redford exhorts audiences to stay focused on the movies and moviemakers who are creating their work outside Hollywood’s commercial, mainstream studios.

But this year, the Oscar-winning actor and director of films like Ordinary People dispensed with his normal speech to focus his few words on current-day politics. His change seemed appropriate for the debut of Chicago 10.

Director Brett Morgen’s documentary looks back at the notorious late 1960s trial of anti-war activists including Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, known at that time as the Chicago Seven.

Sundance on edge

Using a cutting-edge blend of historical TV footage with animated characters, Morgen looks back at the anti-war protests at the 1968 Democratic convention and the trial of the famed Chicago Seven, who were convicted of inciting riots.

As history later judged, many of the protesters were viewed less as lawbreakers and more as the voice of a new generation of leaders who chose to openly protest government policies.

Morgen, who took the stage to a standing ovation after the screening, urged today’s audiences to speak out again.

One of his goals in making the documentary, he told the more than 1 000 people in attendance, was to “mobilise the youth in the country to get out and stop this war”. He was, obviously, referring to the current war in Iraq.

Festival director Geoffrey Gilmore told Reuters ahead of the premiere of Chicago 10, the documentary typifies many of the movies playing at this year’s festival.

“It’s about being inspired to take risks to change the world you’re in,” Gilmore said.

But Chicago 10 is more than just about taking risks and speaking out against war.
Morgen challenges conventions in documentary filmmaking, where tradition has it that filmmakers interview subjects talking about an issue or a topic.

In his movie, he utilises the transcripts from the federal trial and re-creates the events by having actors including Nick Nolte and Mark Ruffalo voice the animated characters.

Hayden, who attended the premiere, was impressed. He took the stage after the premiere and wondered aloud how Morgen, who was born after the 1968 protests and trial, could have captured the intense emotion of the time.

“I thought he did it brilliantly,” said the veteran anti-war protester and political activist.

More than 120 films will be screened throughout the 10-day festival that ends on January 28, and while most of them will not address the war or current events, there was little doubt Chicago 10 set the tone for the festival, known for cutting-edge films and new, fresh voices in cinema. - Reuters

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