xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Maryland Film Festival: Gibney confirmed for 'Casino Jack'

If you've never been to an Alex Gibney documentary like "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," and seen him introduce one at the Maryland Film Festival, you're missing a different kind of 3-D experience. Without special glasses and technical tricks, the filmmaker appears to step right out of his revelatory and ferociously funny or emotional movies — his voice is that strong, his temperament is that distinctive. (That's him speaking at the MFF Tent Village in 2008.)

His new film, "Casino Jack and the United States of Money," treats the scandal surrounding con-man lobbyist Jack Abramoff's convictions for defrauding American Indian tribes and corrupting public officials as an opportunity to explain how free-market ideology went insane. Gibney will host its screening Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at MICA's Brown Center.

Advertisement

I spoke to Gibney a week before his arrival in Baltimore. Here are some samples of his wit and wisdom.

Q: How did you turn what should have been a depressing saga, and is still infuriating, into such an entertaining movie?

Advertisement

A: I saw it as a spy thriller. A combination of "The Mouse That Roared" and "The Ipcress File." I thought, wow, that's a movie. It seemed like fun, but fun with a purpose. Coming out the other end was hard. I've been working on this, off and on for three years.

Q: What's going to boggle most audiences is the way you depict Abramoff at the center of this group of radical right-wingers who coalesced in college during the Reagan years.

A: Right. It was this core of radical Republicans who were determined to take over the government. They're like Lenin going to the Finland Station for the October Revolution! And in the actions that they organized, you see these guys dressed up in fatigues, doing these demos like 1960s street theater, except all from the Right. I thought, wow, this is really interesting. It didn't take over entirely, but it became this huge section of the film that I never expected, initially.

Q: What a group of characters, like Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition….

A: It's like Hollywood casting. He could be the evil snake-oil salesman, or the guy who has this angelic, choir-boy face but in the dark of night is putting his stiletto between people's shoulder-blades.

This is where journalism meets cinema and sometimes takes a different path. Partially what happened is that after we began to investigate and churn up materials for the film, we kept running across this material about the periods before the scandal broke. And it was fascinating.

We found the cameraman who went to Angola for the Jamboree in Jamba [a 1985 conference of anti-Communist militants in Jamba, Angola]. Look at the elaborate spectacle they were able to mount there! They wanted it to be some spectacular right-wing Woodstock.

Sun photo by Amy Davis

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement