Media in Sync is proud to announce that the political thriller THE ACTIVIST, set during the Native American protest of Wounded Knee in 1973, is now available on DVD and digital platforms, after a successful run in the festival circuit, and a limited theatrical release in the U.S.
The Los Angeles Times called it “INTRIGUING” and the Village Voice hailed “BRILLIANT”.
THE ACTIVIST is a riveting political thriller set during the Wounded Knee protest in 1973. Two Native American activists, Marvin and Bud, are arrested and held in custody in a small sheriff’s office in the middle of nowhere. Why are they secretly kept there when the events make national news? When a lawyer is assigned to the case, she will realize there is more to investigate than it seems. Why does a representative of President Nixon make frequent visits to the detainees? and a U.S. Senator? And a Hollywood star who is also an activist? Confrontations will reveal deep secrets, and the truth will come out that Marvin’s wife, who died a few months before in a car accident, might have been murdered…. With nods to actor Marlon Brando, President Nixon, and Vietnam, the film recreates the paranoid culture of the 1970s.
Directed by Cyril Morin and starring:
Michael Spears (Dances with Wolves, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee),
Tonanzin Carmelo (Into the West, Imprint),
veteran TV actors:
Ron Roggé (Treme, Modern Family),
King Orba (3:10 to Yuma),
and Alena Von Stroheim (Eric Von Stroheim’s granddaughter).
Bonus Features include the original theatrical trailer and the Q&A session with director Cyril Morin after the premiere of the film in Los Angeles.
Cyril Morin is a successful international film composer with more than 90 soundtracks to his credits, including the TV series BORGIA and the films by renown Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis. His music has received numerous awards and press acclaim. The Activist is his first feature film.
A little historical background:
February 1973: the revival of the Indian cause.
More than eighty years after the Wounded Knee massacre; on February 27, 1973 the place again became the theater of a confrontation between the federal authorities and the activists of the American Indian Movement. On this day about 300 Oglala Sioux as well as sympathizers of the Indian cause gathered and occupied the village of Wounded Knee for their rights and land to be recognized. The conflict lasted for 72 days and many were killed or wounded.
Best Independent Film / Sedona International Film Festival
USA Film Festival (Dallas)
American Indian Film Festival (San Francisco)
Valley Film Festival (Los Angeles)
Human Rights Film Festival (New York)
New York City Independent Film Festival
1st Red Nation Film Festival (Los Angeles)
Cherokee South Carolina Film Festival
Language: English / Spanish and French subtitles available
Specs: Color / 90 minutes / Widescreen / 5.1 Surround Sound / Not Rated
DVD available for purchase on amazon.ca
Available for streaming and/or download on iTunes and on Google Play.
INTERVIEW WITH CYRIL MORIN
Writer – Director – Composer
Why this interest in the 1973 Wounded Knee uprising, the subject having never been depicted in a movie?
CM: 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.
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.
You’re talking about Marlon Brando, George McGovern and Nixon.
CM: 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.
Marlon Brando went to Wounded Knee and also fought for Indian rights all his life. In the film, I have recreated the famous scene in which he refused to accept the Academy Awards for his role in «The Godfather» because of the insurrection (March, 27 1973).
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. Moreover, we can think that the siege went beyond what the uprising should have represented.
The movie happens almost in only one place. How did you approach the prison and the confinement?
CM: Generally, the activists are fairly familiar with prison and my characters undoubtedly were present during the Native American siege in Alcatraz, Washington, or even Custer. Here, it is about temporary jail cells, but the siege lasts longer than planned. The confinement creates tension and pushes the characters physically and psychologically.
To film it, I preferred to recreate a set in a studio to have more freedom, and especially to avoid a certain claustrophobia. But I liked the confinement aspect of it. The film I used as a reference was Sydney Lumet’s “12 Angry Men”. It’s a perfect example of a “one location” movie.
What about working with the set, the lighting and the technicians?
CM: The team was very cosmopolitan as only a team in Los Angeles can be. With Tabbert Fiiler, our director of photography, we wanted a contemporary image whereas the set (Tyler Jensen), the costumes (Rosalida Medina) and the make-up (Laci Hill) had to have a taste of the seventies. Each sequence was prepared on paper, with specific camera angles and lighting for each time of day. Everyone had a way of being filmed. The stable characters (Marvin, Henry) were on camera foot and the unstable characters (Frank, Bud) from the shoulder up. The violent scenes were filmed also from the shoulder up with lower angles and the calmer scenes were sometimes filmed from above or from a lateral point of view.
The images would not be complete without the contribution in post production of Pitof (Vidocq, Alien 4, The City Of Lost Children), who literally redesigned the lights and colors in postproduction. We added, for certain scenes at the end, visual effects done by Olivier Dumont (Tree of Life, The Prestige). For sound editing and mixing, I worked with a team at Wildfire (Gus Van Sant’s mixer, among others) and finally, postproduction was supervised by Pascal Vaguelsy (The Fighter, Dear John) in Los Angeles.
How was working with the actors?
CM: It was important to have native American actors for the movie like Michael Spears (Dances with Wolves, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee) and Tonanzin Carmelo (Into the West, Imprint). I would not have been able to make the movie without them. It turns out that Michael’s family was actively involved during the uprising and that his older brother was the only child born in Wounded Knee during the protests. Tonanzin is also a famous native American actress. It is also my second collaboration with Chad Brown (Marvin) and Alena Von Stroheim (Eric Von Stroheim’s granddaughter) who plays the lawyer.
We rehearsed a lot before starting shooting to find the alchemy between the characters. Ron Roggé (Treme, Modern Family) and Circus-Szalewski (Conan) plays two Sheriffs who’d been working together for 20 years. King Orba (3:10 to Yuma) plays Marlon Brando. Anthony Palermo (Rollerball) plays Nixon’s representative and Henry Leblanc (The Bold and the Beautiful), plays Senator George McGovern. I have to say that working with them was a wonderful professional experience both on a personal level and creatively.
What about the music?
CM: 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.
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.
But I had a great team in Paris, Los Angeles and Budapest (for strings). I recorded all the guitars myself. I called upon the beautiful voices of Kate Yvorra and Michael Spears and piano by Matt Rolling (Lyle Lovett, Mark Knopfler). The music was mixed by Bruno Mercere from Sledge and produced by Arnaud Gauthier. We have a long collaboration together.
How do you feel after this first feature film experience?
CM: 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.
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.
I grew up with movies from the seventies and the eighties. These are the reason for me wanting to work in films. “The Activist” is my tribute to these films.
BIOGRAPHY – Cyril Morin
Cyril Morin became a director after a successful international career as a film composer with more than 90 soundtracks to his name, including the TV Series BORGIA and the films by renown Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis. His music has won awards at numerous festivals and received acclaim from the international press. Among many honors, he was a nominee at the European Film Awards and for the World Soundtrack Award.
To aid his creative process, the famed composer was often invited on set to observe directors at work. He naturally became familiar with how films are produced and directed. A quick study, he produced a music video before proceeding to direct his first short film Homere (1995) with footage from film archives. He also co-wrote and produced a documentary The Spirit of the Water (1995) for the Surfrider Foundation.
After these initial successes, Cyril quietly undertook screenwriting, first penning scripts for short films, and then a feature he also directed.
In 2012, he directed the short film The Application Café. Shot in the Californian desert, the sci-fi drama is a tribute to European directors such as Antonioni and their mythological interpretations of America.
In 2013, he wrote and directed The Activist, his first feature film.
In 2014, he completed his second feature film, Hacker’s Game, a love story between two cyber-adventurers, starring Pom Klementieff (Old Boy, Spike Lee) and Chris Schellenger (The Canyons, Paul Schrader).
He is currently completing his third feature film, NY84, set in the New York City of the 80s.