Director of the documentary "Chicago 10" defends his approach

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A year after opening the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, Brett Morgen's third film Chicago 10 is finally being released, and it probably couldn't be coming out at a better time. (Watch exclusive clip)

It's somewhat of a departure from his previous groundbreaking docs The Kid Stays in the Picture, a biography of producer Bob Evans, and the Oscar nominated On the Ropes, not only because he didn't make it with regular collaborator Nanete Burstein, but also because it's clearly a film made in response to the political climate in the country. It mixes archival footage with animated recreations to recount the story of the protests and marches surrounding the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, which led to riots and arrests when the police got violent. Much of the film deals with the court case against the organizers of the rally, including Abbie Hoffman, Alan Ginsberg and Bobby Seale, who are voiced and performed by actors Hank Azaria, Jeffrey Wright, Mark Ruffalo and the late Roy Scheider, that were turned into a creative animated version of the court trial.

The resulting film was so impressive that Steven Spielberg and producer Walter Parkes optioned the rights to create a dramatic film based on the events called The Trial of the Chicago 7. Although production on that film has been temporarily delayed, those interested in a time when the young people of the country were as displeased with their government about the Vietnam War as we see in our country today will be fascinated by the parallels with events that took place 40 years ago. briefly talked with Morgen at Sundance last year, but when we had a chance to catch up recently, we were curious how impressions of the film might have changed in the last year, especially with the upcoming elections. There's no question that Morgen is an incredibly intelligent filmmaker, and boy, can he talk! Have you watched the movie again since it played at Sundance?
Brett Morgen: I did about five weeks ago. We didn't deliver our final film until September and I did a little bit of work on it--I took a few minutes out--but about five weeks ago we were doing a screening at USC for students and I was like, "I better sit in and watch this because I have to start talking about the film again."

CS: Are you still happy with the movie and do you think it stands up a year later, especially with the changing climate in the country?
Morgen: Listen, I totally stand by the film that we made and since the premiere at Sundance, I read most of the blogs and reviews of the film and sometimes you read that stuff and you read criticism of it and you go, "Damn, I would like to go back and fix that." The criticisms of the film were suggesting I would make a film that I would never make. Some people would occasionally have issues with the music, or the lack of context, those two areas primarily and those were things that I knew would polarize audiences.

CS: Those were two of the things I liked about it.
Morgen: Yeah no, that's my thing. I think what we tried to do with "Chicago 10" is create a uniquely cinematic experience out of historical materials which was something that I hadn't seen before and was something I was very interested in constructing. I think ultimately, people wanting "Chicago 10" to be a history lesson about 1968 are going to be greatly disappointed because its not about 1968, it's about 2008. It's like Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet." he took a text that was written in the 1600's and applied it to today. This is an attempt by someone from my generation to tell their story, which really they haven't encountered much of, but there's going to be a lot more of it probably in the future obviously....

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