Sundance talks politics at 'Chicago 10' opening


PARK CITY -- The Sundance Film Festival opened 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 U.S. 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 W. 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.

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."

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 "mobilize 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 said 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.

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 Jan. 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.Sundance news section
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