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."

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