Sundance announces opening film |

Sundance announces opening film

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record staff

The growing controversy surrounding the United States’ involvement in Iraq is becoming eerily reminiscent of the tumultuous Vietnam era in the 1960s, so it seems particularly fitting that the Sundance Institute has chosen a film documenting one of the pivotal events of the Vietnam protests to open the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

The documentary "Chicago 10," written and directed by Brett Morgen, combines historical footage, interviews and animation to recount the political unrest surrounding the Democratic National Convention that resulted in the Chicago Conspiracy Trial in 1969.

While festival organizers stop short of saying the choice is intended as a political statement, they hope the theme will resonate with this year’s audiences.

"I don’t think we are trying to make a political statement, the world is, as it has been, besieged with problems," said Geoffrey Gilmore, director of the Sundance Film festival.

However, Gilmore adds, "It’s enormously contemporary. It’s not a film that is just about baby boomers, it’s also about what’s going on right now."

"Chicago 10" explores the build-up and aftermath of the weeklong anti-war demonstrations staged during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, during which, protestors clashed with the Chicago Police Department and the National Guard. Eight of the activists were charged with inciting the violence and were brought to trial.

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The defendants included counter-culture icons such as Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and pacifist David Dellinger. Liberal attorney William Kunstler represented seven of the defendants while Bobby Seale, co-chair of the Black Panther Party, attempted to defend himself. The trial was presided over by Judge Julius Hoffman.

According to the announcement from Sundance: "The film presents contemporary history through a mix of bold and original animation with extraordinary archival footage that allows the film to move back and forth between the protests on the streets of Chicago and the resulting courtroom chaos. Set to the music of the revolution, then and now, ‘Chicago 10’ is a story of young Americans speaking out and taking a stand in the face of an oppressive and armed government."

Gilmore said the film explores the courage citizens for what they believed in, which may inspire others.

"It’s about one taking risks to try to stop the problems in the world," Gilmore said. "That’s very special, and it speaks to the generation at this moment."

Morgen, who also created "The Kids Stay At Home" and the Academy Award nominated film, "On The Ropes" that screened at prior Sundance Festivals, believes his film comes to the public at an appropriate time.

"It seems fitting to me that a film about the importance of taking a stand should launch the 2007 edition. For the past five years, I have labored to bring this story into focus and with each passing day, the film becomes increasingly relevant. I can’t think of a more appropriate time to unleash the beast," said Morgen in Sundance’s announcement.

Although Morgen is becoming something of a Sundance veteran, he said he is "thrilled and honored that ‘Chicago 10’ has been selected to open" the festival.

Gilmore is pleased as well.

"We are always looking for films that are creatively ambitious and that will leave the audience deeply moved," Gilmore said. "This is exactly the right film for us to open with. We feel equally honored."

The film is using a heavy dose of animation for the courtroom scenes. Morgen utilized computer animation in a way that has not been applied in other documentaries.

"It pushes the boundaries of creative filmmaking," Gilmore said. "It hasn’t been done like this before, this is where they are pushing the edge."

The animation sequences in the film include the voices of Hank Azaria, Mark Ruffalo, Dylan Baker, Live Schreiber, Nick Nolte, Jeffrey Wright, Roy Scheider and Leonard Weinglass.

"I think the film is about people willing to take risks in their day-to-day lives and trying to go out on an edge to change the world," Gilmore said. "Is it an issue that we have to deal with now? Absolutely."

"Chicago 10," written and directed by Brett Morgen, will premiere on the opening night of the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 18. The film will be presented by River Road Entertainment and Participant Productions. The documentary is produced by Graydon Carter and Brent Morgan. Executive producers are William Pohlad, Laura Bickford, Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann, Peter Schlessel and Ricky Strauss. People can register for individual tickets through 5 p.m. on Jan. 5. Volunteers are also being accepted to help with everything from ticketing to transportation. To become a volunteer e-mail . Call (877) 733-7829 or log on to for more information on tickets, volunteers and other festival events.