Chicago 10 Brett Morgen

Brett Morgen, the writer-director of the experimental documentary, “Chicago 10,” which served as opening night of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, seemed excited last night, while facing a barrage of questions from an equally enthusiastic audience.

Genesis of Docu

Brett Morgen: I began research on Chicago 10 during the American invasion of Afghanistan. On the eve of the invasion, I thought there were Americans who opposed to the war, but no one was taking to the streets. The time seemed right to look back at the Chicago 8 and the anti-war movements of the 1960s to have an understanding of what it means to take a stand, to try and encourage people to take a more active role in protest. My feeling at the time was that I didn't care whether people were going out to oppose the war or condone the war. I just thought there should be some more participation.

Biggest Challenge and Fear

BM: I didn't want to make a film that read like Cliff Notes to an era. With eight defendants representing three political organizations and a political convention with three candidates, set against one of the most complicated political landscapes in recent history, my biggest fear was overwhelming young audiences with a bunch of names and faces they has never heard of. I also didn't want to trivialize the era by giving passing mention to some weighty issues. I knew that this would be controversial, but once I decided to free myself from the chains of history, I felt I could make the movie I really wanted to make.

Extensive Footage

BM: Over 180 hours of footage were shot during the convention on 16mm. There were at least 14,000 photos shot by the Walker Report. It's like an embarrassment of richesthere is a huge amount of archival material.

No Interviews

I decided that if I'm going to tell a story without a narrator and without interviews, we had to find a subject that allowed us the opportunity to do that. This is probably the only event on U.S. soil for which there was enough material shot in the course of one week that you can actually make a film without interviews or narrator.

Years of Research

BM: We spent two years looking all over the world for anything we could get our hands on. It became a total obsessiondoes anyone in the audience have footage I don't know I'd like to believe that we uncovered just about everything that is still around. We even found some secretly recorded audio from inside the courtroom in a vault in Paris!

Later, I spent six months up at the networks screening through hundreds of hours of material to choose selects. It was extremely important to me to pre-screen every frame of film before I began working on my documentary. The narrative was dedicated to a certain extent by what was availablebut a lot was available.

The Seminal 1968

BM: I didn't want to make a valentine to the important events of the 1960s. I didn't want to make a movie about a bunch of people talking about how great they were back then, and how meek and apolitical Americans are today. I decided, let's do it in a language kids understand, and let's do it without talking heads and a narrator and all the other trappings of non-fiction works. Let's see if we can find away a docu using only primary sources.