music reporter

A rage in 'Berkeley' as war scars generations

Perhaps all good things lead back to Bruce Springsteen's dressing room. At least that is where filmmaker Bobby Roth met musician-activist Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave and Nightwatchman fame.

Roth describes Morello upon the first meeting as an "inconspicuous-looking guy in a T-shirt sitting on the floor." The two quickly got into a dialogue about politics, namely the differences and similarities between the Vietnam and Iraq wars. A friendship was born as well as an acting role in a film that touches on that subject, Roth's deeply personal independent release "Berkeley."

Roth is a bit on edge. He's in Dallas about to shoot a complicated escape scene for the hit Fox drama "Prison Break." It involves roofs, helicopters, stunts and perfect timing. An acclaimed TV director, he's also working on "Lost" and "Without a Trace." "The (TV) stuff allows me the luxury of doing a movie like 'Berkeley,' " Roth says. "There is something really freeing about spending your own money on something you believe in."

"Berkeley," which follows the sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and political experiences of a middle-class college student in the 1960s, is Roth's third independent film. It opens Oct. 12 at two Laemmle Theatres in Los Angeles.

Morello was involved with the music of the film as well as playing the role of Blue. "Blue is based on my impression of Country Joe McDonald," Roth says. "He was in the Navy, had been a veteran, was a little bit lost and ended up playing music with some younger guys who were hippies."

Morello, who has long been politically vocal through his music — he recently wrote and performed a song for Michael Moore's film "Sicko" — says he was attracted to the political nature of the film as well as a chance to try his hand at a larger acting role.

Roth says Morello was a consummate professional on set. "I used to tell him, 'Tom, you're giving rock stars a bad name; you're always on time.' "

Because of Roth's numerous TV projects, the film took three years to make. In that time, he notes, Americans' view of the Iraq War has shifted.

"I think now the movie is a lot more palatable to people who initially thought the war was a good war," Roth says. "Now it's revealed itself to be very similar to Vietnam. It has become a link between guys in their 50s to guys in their 20s."

Notes Morello: "Given what's going on in our country, people should be rising up; there should be riots in the streets. I think there is a place again for protest songs. I hope so."