Friday, April 17, 2009

Local low-budget film thriller divulges 'real reason' for Iraq war

This is incredibly cool. People with an idea that has been talked about but not immortilized in film until now, put up their own money to make a very inexpensive film about one of the reasons for the invasion of Iraq.

Boge (from left), Duffy, Radtke and Dick.

From the Wpg Free Press, Morley Walker, April 16, 2009.

Have you heard about the new political thriller that claims to divulge the real reason the U.S. invaded Iraq?

This topical movie sounds like a natural project for George Clooney. The Weinsteins might produce, and the director could be Steven Soderbergh or Oliver Stone.

The budget, needless to say, would be millions of dollars, maybe $100 million.

Unfortunately, you'd be getting a head of yourself if you attributed some of these qualities to Among Thieves, which has its world premiere next week at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Yes, the movie is indeed a full-length feature set against the events of the second Gulf War.

A conspiracy thriller, it focuses on three characters, two men and a woman, who reunite 10 years after high school. They stumble on evidence that the United States invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein had decided to sell his oil in euros rather than U.S. dollars, thus threatening to destabilize the U.S. monetary supremacy.

It features chase scenes, shoot-outs and international intrigue.

However, the resemblance to a Hollywood thriller pretty much ends there, as the finished product is sometimes painfully rudimentary, having been made largely by amateurs with a budget of $15,000.

Among Thieves was shot here in Winnipeg, almost two years ago, with our city standing in for Chicago, using a cast of 20 and a crew of 30 plus more than 70 extras and support personnel.

Every person worked for free, in exchange for a promise to be paid a percentage of the profits, should the movie ever make a profit.

The writer-director is Paul Boge, a 35-year-old civil engineer from North Kildonan whose film resumé consists of one previous short.

He and two friends, Chris Radtke and Timothy Horch, formed a production company called Firegate Films. They bought a $5,000 video camera, a $1,500 gliding camera and a $1,500 lighting kit. They used the computer editing software Final Cut Pro.

"There is no question that without the video technology, this would have been impossible," Boge says, as film costs are prohibitive.

A U.S. politics junkie, Boge got the idea for his script not long after the war started in 2003. He came across a book that laid out his thesis.

"Our movie is unique," says Boge, a longtime American-political junkie.

"It's the first film on the planet that deals with the euro-oil-Iraq connection."

The three men have rented the WAG's 320-seat Muriel Richardson Auditorium for four screenings at 6:30 and 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. Tickets are $10 each, available at the door or at

The first Tuesday screening is already sold out to friends and family. The early Wednesday show is more than half sold. If they can manage to fill every seat, Boge figures, they'll almost make back their 15 grand.

Beyond that, Among Thieves has no distributor, no TV or video deal and no exhibition offers of any kind.

"There are a lot of political film festivals in the U.S. that we'll approach," Boge says.

Winnipeg film director Sean Garrity says he wishes them well but figures they're in for tough sledding.

"They picked the absolute worst time," he says. "The economic crunch has meant that nobody can afford to buy Canadian films."

"If you have no money, you have to shoot something that plays to a no-money approach," says Garrity, 42, whose credit include the made-in-Winnipeg features Lucid (2005) and Inertia (2001).

"A good example is the that new film Ballast, which was a hit at Sundance."

A key aspect of Among Thieves is its Christian subtext. The title, of course, is a reference to the New Testament's account of Christ's crucifixion.

The film, which is blessedly free of vulgarity and coarse language, employs much Christian imagery, and the main characters (played by David Dick, Meghan Duffy and Carey Smith) all struggle with notions of forgiveness and redemption.

"It's the reason why I made the film," says Boge, a member of the North Kildonan Mennonite Brethren Church.

"As followers of Jesus, we try to live the Gospel," he says, "but we are also responsible to talk about truth in the world."

Boge has published three books with Christian themes and is currently at work on a biography of the late Winnipeg pastor and activist Harry Lehotsky.

Dick won the lead role in an open audition. With a theatrical degree from a U.S. college, he agreed to work for free because he thought it would be an excellent calling card.

"I've worked on 20 projects in the last five years, and this was the most organized and well-planned," says Dick, 29, who moved here from Boston with his Winnipeg-born wife.

Radtke, an information technologist with the city, served as the director of photography and edited the film with Horch.

"I learn best when I'm thrown into something," says Radtke, 30.

"We might be crazy, but we had a good time and we made a lot of lasting friends."

2009 Masters winner Angel Cabrera from Argentina

If there's any golf tournament that is steeped in tradition and history, it's the annual Masters tournament, held each year in Augusta, Georgia. It's the sentimental favorite tournament for remembering the old guard of mostly US elite golfers, like Bobby Jones (1902-1971), Ben Hogan (1912-1997), and Arnold Palmer (1929). Palmer has his very own tournament, which Tiger Woods won last month for the upteenth time. Palmer was again honored with the task of taking the first drive. It was also the last tournament for all-time great Gary Player, the diminutive South African who burst on the scene and was an immediate rival to Palmer and a young Jack Nicklaus (1940). Player epitomizes class, grace and sportsmanship, all the good things that help make golf one of the most honorable sports out there. In what other sport are you supposed to call penalties on yourself?

Gary Player (1935) is in his seventies and long out of contention to win a PGA tournament, let alone a major like the Masters. But, having been a past champ, he and others who would not otherwise be allowed to play, have earned exemptions to allow them to compete not so much because they have a chance, but to be seen by the adoring fans. Last year, Greg Norman, a superstar in the 80s, almost won the British Open. This allowed him to earn a spot in this year's Masters. It might be his last invite since he failed to make the cut on Friday and thus only lasted two days. It was also the final invite for former Masters champ Fuzzy Zoeller. His claim to fame was winning the Masters in his very first try as a PGA professional.

Early on, it was clear that Tiger Woods would have to perform beyond superbly to have a shot at winning. He often seems to tread water in the first two days of a tournament before making his move on "moving day," which is Saturday. He's never lost a major tournament when he started the final day in the lead. This year, he seemded to be too far behind the strong play of Chad Campbell and this year's almost Cinderella favorite, Kenny Perry. I only took notice of Perry in the last five years or so. Now 48, most PGA pros around that age fade from the spotlight, and usually never win again. Not so Perry who has found himself usually in the top ten ranking and enjoying the occasional win which proves that guys over 40 can be competitive. Vijay Singh also blossomed late in his career and is the most successful golfer ever in his 40s. I can still recall the unexpected excitement watching Jack Nicklaus win the 1986 Masters at the age of 46. Kenny Perry would have been the oldest winner of the Masters, had he won. Instead, he, Campbell and the 2007 US Open winner, Angel Cabrera (1969)ended up in a playoff that lasted two holes but had some incredible drama.

On the final day of the Masters, Tiger Woods was paired with the second greatest golfer in the world, Phil Mickelson, the master of the short game. It was amazing to watch Mickelson shoot a 30 on the front nine while Woods struggled with mediocre play. It seemed as if every approach shot Phil made landed a few feet from the hole, setting him up for numerous birdies, while Tiger Woods was several feet away. Tiger wasn't on his "A" game and Phil was pretty brilliant. He could have ended up in the playoff were it not for landing one of his tee shots in the water and missing a couple of putts. During the first hole of the playoffs, both Perry and Campbell were sitting comfortably in the fairway with their drives while Cabrera landed in the trees. He had a chance to hit his second shot on or near the green but it hit a tree and ended up in the fairway. I honestly thought that Cabrera was finished at that point. Wouldn't you know it, both Perry and Campbell failed to land their second shot on the green while Cabrera landed his third shot just a few feet away of the hole, allowing him to score an easy par while Campbell bogeyed and Perry lucked out for a par.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, 2009 Masters, sabres crossed, ready for battle.

The lesson here is that you can't count yourself out so easily because you've made a mistake like Cabrera did, because your competition might also screw up, especially when under intense pressure, like having the entire golfing world watching you vie for a major title.


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