Scorsese in the DGA Spotlight, Plus Danish Filmmakers and “Weather” Talk
by Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks
Yesterday, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) President Martha Coolidge announced the five nominees for the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film for 2002. Selected for the annual honor were Stephen Daldry for “The Hours,” Peter Jackson for “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” Rob Marshall for “Chicago,” Roman Polanski for “The Pianist,” and Martin Scorsese for “Gangs of New York.”
Scorsese, recipient of his fifth DGA nomination, has also been chosen to receive the lifetime achievement award by the DGA. The ceremony will take place in Los Angeles on March 1. Previous recipients of the prize include: Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, Billy Wilder, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Capra, and John Ford.
A steady stream of people flowed through the champagne brunch hosted by the Danish Film Institute on Monday to spotlight the sizable group of Danish films at Sundance. Danish directors Susanne Bier (“Open Hearts”), Jesper Jargil (“The Purified”), Jorgen Leth (“New Scenes from America”) and Nicolas Winding Refn (“Fear X”) joined the crowd for the gathering. One glaring absence was Thomas Vinterberg, director of “It’s All About Love.” Several people at the event were disappointed by his “no show,” but the filmmaker was in fact busy doing press for his premiere film. The movie stars Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes, and Sean Penn, and is described as a surreal story of a couple’s breakup amidst tense emotions and perverse business intrigue.
Leth’s “New Scenes from America” is a non-flag worshipping “revisit” to the style of “66 Scenes from America,” focusing the camera on the eccentricity and individuality of the United States. Refn’s “Fear” is an emotional psychological thriller, Bier’s “Open Hearts,” starring Danish actors Mads Mikkelsen, Sonja Richter, and Paprika Steen, is a romantic drama that adheres to the Dogme 95 manifesto, and Jargil’s “The Purified” is an insider’s view of the workings of Lars Von Trier and the Dogme movement. The film spotlights the movement that catapulted Denmark to the forefront of world cinema.
Politics never stray very far from the Sundance Film Festival. Founder Robert Redford used a Sundance Channel press conference Sunday morning to again denounce the policies of a Bush Administration that remains popular at home despite its vilification overseas. The 2003 festival includes a wealth of politically relevant works, including “Comandante,” “The Education of Gore Vidal,” “Iran, Veiled Appearances,” and “Ford Transit.”
Sam Green and Bill Siegel’s film “The Weather Underground” documents a group of ’60s leftists, outraged over racism and the Vietnam war, who were determined to bring the war home against the U.S. government through bombing targets throughout the country that they considered “emblematic” of the “violent” policies of the U.S. around the world. The film uses archival footage and interviews with the group s former members, as well as FBI documents, to recreate the group’s confrontation with Chicago police, its bombing of the U.S. Capitol, and its successful scheme to free psychedelic guru Timothy Leary from prison.
The film spotlights what many will consider a terrorist organization, not exactly the en-vogue story post-September 11 for many in the film industry, as Green acknowledged in a conversation with indieWIRE. “After 9/11, we were like, ‘Oh God we can’t even do this.'” Still, he along with Siegel pursued the story (for two years) believing it was especially important to understand, as Green states, “what is the meaning of terrorism and violence.”
Bill Ayer, one of the former Weather Underground members agreed that “9/11 does make it weirder and much more charged.” Speaking with Ayer and fellow Weather Undergrounder (and present-day wife) Bernardine Dohrn, one gets a sense that the old punk anthem, “Question Authority” is an American duty. During the interview, both took time out from the conversation in a Park City hotel to speak to their son, who was at an anti-war protest in Washington, D.C. They beamed with pride over his activism.
“We (Americans) shouldn’t think of ourselves as a class apart,” said Ayers. “Not acting is a moral choice.” Both Ayers and Dohrn have remained true to their ideological roots despite their more staid gigs as university professors in Chicago. Dohrn still urges protest despite this age of political apathy, “Don’t be complicit with the crimes done in your name.”
Earlier this week at their Sundance screening, co-director Bill Siegel noted, “I felt my spider sense tingling. Someone was trying to get our attention. We looked up and it was Robert Redford in the audience giving us the thumbs up.”