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2014, 90m, drama, thriller
n 1973, during the insurrection, Marvin and Bud, two Native American activists, are arrested and thrown in jail.
Anna, Marvin's wife, died in an accident several months before.
Marvin is devastated and Bud consoles his friend during this hard time.
In jail, they must face two officers monitoring their every move and join forces with a young lawyer assigned to their case.
Why does a Nixon representative visit them in jail? And a Senator? And a Hollywood star? What is Nixon's role?
What secret was Anna hiding before she died?
During the seventies, the world keeps spinning and tension arise
Produced by: Arnaud Gauthier
Cast: Chadwick E.Brown; Michael Spears; Tonanzin Carmelo
10 questions with The Activist director, Cyril Morin at the half-way mark.
Saturday, April 30th, 2016
1Hi Cyril! Thanks for being a part of our spring festival. First, what was the initial seed that made you want to make The Activist? For a long time, I’ve been fascinated by the Indian culture and by their struggles. Wounded Knee, I believe, is the last Indian “war”. The “war” that gives social and cultural revival to the Native Americans. Through this event, I also wanted to speak about the activism of the 70s. I find this insurrection illustrates well the change that took place in our society during that time.
2How much of this story actually true? The National Sacrifice Zone was a real thing? What happened when it was brought to light? I made a political thriller where the subplots in the background are historical, but where the actions and the characters are inspired by true events and famous characters.
All those characters were connected with what took place at Wounded Knee. The senator of South Dakota, George McGovern, big time loser against Nixon in the elections of 72, returned to the front of the political scene by periodically negotiating beside the insurgents.
Nixon was ultimately the big loser during this time, because he went against the current and locked himself away prematurely with the wiretaps that resulted in the Watergate scandal. It is what concludes the movie. But the secret plan he signed shows a large amount of cynicism. Rules in Indian reservations are indeed not the same than in the rest of the country and certain people broke those rules -- and still abuse of them. It is one subject of the movie. About the "Sacrifice Zone", it was decided by the governement to authorize drilling for oil and Uranium in the zone. Sometime those "Sacrifice Zone" were secret.
3You wrote this film as well. How long did it take you to write and what is your writing process like? It took one year of writing. For this film, I applied the same technique I use for music or writing scripts. You have to be prepared and work as much as possible, so that little is left to chance. Creation is always based on the same energy, whether it’s music, writing, graphic arts or directing. I found that energy with artists that I admire like David Lynch, Dennis Hopper or even Miles Davis, who were also painters.
4The Activist was your first feature film. How did you know you were ready to try and tackle a feature film? In 2012, I directed the short film The Application Café. Shot in the Californian desert, a sci-fi drama and a tribute to European directors such as Antonioni and their mythological interpretations of America. After this first great experience, I quickly started to wrote The Activist. I knew that I was ready for a bigger experience, and I also produced it !
5On IMDB you're credited for composing music for over 100 films (as well as composing this film). Which came first, your love for music or your love for film? Both. I started as a musician and a composer. I was often invited on set to observe directors at work. I naturally became familiar with how films are produced and directed.
I must say that the filmmaking process left me in a state of permanent shock, a spinning wheel that doesn’t stop for months and despite that you still have to go the distance. I found the human adventure intense, and everyone's generosity during filming and during the post left me extremely touched. Regarding the music, I have to say it is difficult to be both the director and the composer, since each discipline uses very different parts of the brain. I found myself going around in circles, sometimes finding it uneasy to concentrate on the music only. When you make a film you end up being quite busy and agitated. On the other hand, when you compose you have to remain calm and zen. It’s difficult to combine the two. About the music of "The Activist", I searched for inspiration from North American folk music like Neil Young or Nick Cave. I added different layers to add tension and violence. Moreover, to suggest the Vietnam War, I used references from Asia.
6What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? Many films I saw when I was an adolescent. But, mostly, I feel more like a storyteller than a film maker. Film is a part of my working process as music or other disciplines.
I have to say that Copolla, Scorsese, Kubrick, or actors like Al Pacino had a real influence on me, and for years, I didn't know and try to make a movie. It came later by chance.
7You were born in France, so what got you interested in making your first feature film about Native Americans in a political thriller about Wounded Knee? France as always, show a good face of the Native American culture. When I was a kid I was on the "Indian side". But my film culture was mostly Westerns (who doesn't show the real face of the Native American world). So I read very early about this culture. Also, the massacre of the Native American over 4 centuries was made by European who became American. So, for me, Europe, including French (who were the first in Canada, by example), has a large responsibility in what happen to the Native people.
8How important do you believe a good score is for a film? Do you think it's more important than editing or good cinematography? Where does a score rank in your opinion? Of course a good score is important but, in fact, you can't have a great score without a great story, good actors, and a good director. It happen sometime, but rarelly. Very humbely, the success of a movie, make the success of a score. You have to be a nerd to find good scores in bad movies. Also , the story telling is everything, and the music has to be a part of it and sometime going behind and not upfront.
9Can you share a fun story from the shoot? It came during the casting. I realized that most of the actors had a common story with their characters. I wrote in the script that Frank has a scar, and Ron Rogge, who play the bad cop, has one. Chad Brown who plays Marvin, has the same look in every day life. And Michael Spears who plays Bud, has the same history than his character too. He teaches the culture to the kids, he had scars on his chest, his family was in Wounded Knee during the insurection, and his brother was the only baby who was born during the blocade. So, nothing fun, I'm sorry, but those coincidences, when they came up, made me smile.
10What's next? After The Activist, I directed a movie called "Hacker's Game", a love story between two hackers. It was a digital distribution. Then I directed another one "NY84" who will be released at fall 2016. It's about the starting of Aids in New York in the eighties. Those three movies will be released together next year as "An American Trilogy". Those three movies has a lot in common, some actors, the same kind of production, some key moments who are similar. Now I'm developing several projects between the States and Europe. But I hope to go back to the Native Culture and make another movie about it.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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