BOULDER, Colo. –

This week, for the first time since famed film critic Roger Ebert began dissecting and analyzing movies at the University of Colorado’s Conference on World Affairs in 1975, the writer and director of the chosen film will be in Boulder to answer questions and lead discussion.

Ramin Bahrani, an up-and-coming filmmaker who’s received numerous national and international awards, will join Ebert and film critic Jim Emerson to moderate the week-long analysis of his film, “Chop Shop.”

Ebert said he chose Bahrani’s film for this year’s “Cinema Interruptus” — a series he started at the conference 34 years ago that lets audience members analyze a film’s meaning, acting and cinematography — partly because Bahrani agreed to attend.

That, Ebert wrote to a Camera reporter via e-mail, “will be invaluable in the shot-by-shot analysis.

“Imagine this,” Ebert wrote. “It is 1973, and Martin Scorsese has agreed to come to CWA and do an Interruptus on ‘Mean Streets.’ I believe this experience will be as unforgettable.”

Bahrani said he’s thrilled to participate in the conference, which he knew nothing about until Ebert sent him an invitation.

“How could I say no?” Bahrani said in an interview last week. “I’m really excited, not just because it’s a huge honor that Ebert has asked me, but it’s exciting because I’m just a tiny, tiny part of something much bigger.”

Bahrani said he’s heard a lot about the conference’s rich debates on topics in the arts, science, environment, spirituality, politics and more, and thinks those discussions will bleed over into the questions posed about his film.

“There will be an added pleasure by being with an audience that can provide insight into a film that you didn’t see before, especially an audience that is percolating with thought,” he said. “People will be coming from talks about the economy or urban planning, and it will be great if someone comes from a talk and relates it to the film.”

Bahrani said he’s never participated in something like the Interruptus: On the first day, the movie is shown all the way through, without interruption; on subsequent days, only a portion of the film is shown, during which the moderators and audience members can cut in with questions and comments.

“I’m worried because Ebert said I’m going to get hooked,” Bahrani said.

“Chop Shop” tells the story of a Latino orphan living in a junkyard near Queens, N.Y. Bahrani said he was inspired to create the documentary-style movie after a friend invited him to come along to get his car fixed.

“When I got to the location I understood why,” Bahrani said.

In the “iron-triangle” area of Queens, he said, life and death converge, competitors share camaraderie and the hope of dreams hovers over a slum lifestyle.

“Having all this in such a contained place was exciting,” Bahrani said.

Hearing what other people take from the film is part of the fun, he said.

“On a few occasions, people have told me, ‘If I see a little kid stealing a purse or a candy bar, I’m not gonna stop them,'” Bahrani said, adding that he’s not sure he supports that. “But I’m excited that someone is thinking about it.”

Film critic Emerson — who will moderate the Interruptus with Bahrani and Ebert — said he saw Bahrani’s first film, “Man Push Cart,” years ago and fell in love with the movie. So, he said, when “Chop Shop” came out, Emerson was rooting for it.

“But he blew me away,” Emerson said. “I immediately wrote Roger an e-mail and said, ‘I can’t wait to hear what you have to say about it.’ I was just walking on air.”

Emerson said he expects Bahrani to add depth and insight to this year’s Interruptus.

“We can’t always find filmmakers who can talk about their work and who are articulate,” Emerson said. “But Ramin is. Ramin is the perfect person for this.”

Video: ‘Chop Shop’ trailer

Conference on World Affairs (CWA)

Conference on World Affairs

The 61st annual Conference on World Affairs runs Monday through Friday on the University of Colorado campus.

For more news on the CWA, see’s Special Section and Archive.

For a full schedule of events and participant bios, visit



4/5/2009 4:31:35 PM