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KASPAROV AND THE MACHINE
USA: Think Film Company
UK: Momentum Theatrical
Cast: Garry Kasparov
Director: Vikram Jayanti
Countries: Canada / UK
USA: 90 mins
UK: 85 mins
UK Certificate: PG contains mild language
USA Release Date: 3 December 2004 (Limited Release - New York)
UK Release Date: 23 January 2004
From the outset, the idea of making a film about a chess match was always going to be a tough sell. This was a sport devoid of any visible action whatsoever - and to most, a game of almost incomprehensible complexity. When it was first muted that this might make a viable cinematic tour de force the response from various financiers was less than enthusiastic.
"What we wanted to do was create a documentary that had none of the hallmarks of anything you'd find on television. We wanted to create an emotional and intense experience, one that would feel like a real fight movie" says director Vikram Jayanti. 'We really wanted to break away from anything people might expect from a non-fiction film, driven by what director Vikram Jayanti refers to as 'Intentionality".
The idea for GAME OVER first came to producer Hal Vogel in the summer of 1997, whilst working at British Film Institute, Production Division. "At the time I wanted to make a feature length documentary that had the distinct imprint of Sci-Fi; films such as 2001, ALPHAVILLE, BLADE RUNNER. I was also continuously interested in trying to do something about computers and corporations."
Although the Kasparov IBM story was compelling, it wasn't until allegations against IBM began to surface that the real story emerged. "Here was a documentary that had all the hallmarks of a great fictional narrative," says Vogel "A corporate conspiracy thriller set in the weird world of chess with an obsessive and charismatic chess genius as it's central protagonist. It had all the elements of the kind of movie I wanted to see."
It was proving difficult to secure an anchor broadcaster, and eventually Vogel took it to Andre Singer, former head of feature documentaries at the BBC and a mentor from Vogel's university days. "Andre was the first person I discussed this with who completely got the idea, understood its appeal as a feature documentary and had the courage to pursue the project in the way I had intended" says Vogel. The next step was to find the right director.
Jayanti and Vogel met in May 2002. Jayanti and Singer had been old friends and had worked together on such hugely successful projects as THE MAN WHO BOUGHT MUSTIQUE and TRIPPING. 'I remember meeting Vikram for the first time and immediately liking his Californian attitude and grand scale of ambition.
The next step was to secure access to Kasparov, often acknowledged to be a notoriously difficult character that was both suspicious and controlling of the media and did not suffer fools gladly. Vogel first met Kasparov in January 2002 to discuss the idea of doing a film on his matches with IBM. Apparently no one had ever approached him with the idea and, quite frankly, he didn't believe anyone would do his side of the story justice. His main concern was that everyone would run scared of IBM and would worry about losing their valuable advertising dollar.
Jayanti's experience in this area proved crucial to securing Kasparov. Vogel took Jayanti to meet Kasparov in New York. Over sushi Jayanti was given the famous Kasparov stare as the great chess genius attempted to get the measure of the man. He was clearly impressed by Jayanti's intelligence and approach to the subject. He was also flattered by being equated to Ali, seeing himself as a champion prizefighter that fought with his mind rather than his fists.
We arranged to meet again in London two weeks later. They discussed how they might proceed and what they might be able to offer. Negotiations continued for several months. Eventually, in September, an agreement was finally reached that gave Kasparov the protection he needed.
It was during this summer of negotiations with Kasparov that Singer secured interest from various financiers. Alliance Atlantis, flush with the success of BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE - the most successful documentary of all time - felt the time was right for continuing with feature documentaries. The Film Council, the BBC and the National Film Board of Canada were, at the time, in the process of negotiating a new fund to finance feature length documentaries for the big screen. This was to be the first project under the new protocol, which became known as The World Documentary Fund. As often with these things, timing was everything.
Production finally commenced in October 2002 in Moscow. With delivery set for 31 March 2003 as part of the agreement, and a schedule based around the vagaries of the Chess World, the shooting process was one of constant last minute decisions - waiting for the right opportunities and then getting on a plane at short notice.
Filming took place in Moscow, Slovenia, Munich, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Kasparov's schedule was forever changing and before long his mother, the most important figure in Kasparov's entourage began to have serious misgivings about the film. Vogel and Jayanti were the first to be blamed for everything from his losses to other problems. Despite the difficulties in filming a notoriously difficult character, Kasparov proved to be a brilliant, extremely intelligent and charming figure. Although things certainly got tense during parts of the production he was always happy to help and remained truly committed to the project till the end.