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Documentary: Chicago 10


David Gilmour joined Pink Floyd. The Planet of the Apes, Rosemary’s Baby, Night of the Living Dead, Barbarella and 2001: A Space Odyssey were released. The Beatles created Apple Records and began work on The White Album. Gillian Anderson, Kylie Minogue, Naomi Watts and Jeri Ryan were born. Apollo 8 orbited the Moon. Led Zeppelin formed.

Even though I wasn’t around yet, 1968 didn’t seem like THAT long ago. The music from that era still kicks ass and I’m still happily ogling women born that year. But any delusions I may have had about being able to relate to the events and culture of the late 1960’s were well and truly snuffed out by CHICAGO 10.

During the 1968 Democratic National Convention a massive protest against the Vietnam War deteriorated into violent clashes between protesters and the police and national guard forces, which had gathered in preparation for the event. At it’s lowest point (depending on your perspective, I guess) the police and national guard used tear gas and beat protesters with batons while making arrests. In the aftermath of these riots eight men — Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner and Bobby Seale — were charged with a number of offenses relating to the riots, including conspiracy and inciting to riot. The eight men charged and their defense attorneys, William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass, make up the ‘Chicago 10’.

The documentary itself has been partially constructed using news footage and home movies shot around the time of the riots. However, as no footage of the trial exists, the director of this documentary, Brett Morgen, has used court transcripts, audio recordings and animation to recreate some of the more confronting aspects of the courtroom drama.

Nobody comes away from this film unscathed. While the authorities, including Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, come off as rigid, arrogant and almost bloodthirsty. The defendants — with the exception of Bobby Seale (co-founder of the Black Panther Party For Self Defense), who seems to be the only one with any understanding of the seriousness of the trial — appear to be delusional, self-involved, pseudo intellectual, air heads.

That said, this is an extremely entertaining documentary. It’s shocking and confronting, as well as extremely humorous at times. While the animation wont have anyone at Pixar worrying about their jobs, it does an adequate job of retelling the events and adds a necessary surreal spin to things! It features the voice talent of actors like Hank Azaria, Dylan Baker, Nick Nolte, Mark Ruffalo, Roy Scheider, Liev Schreiber, and Jeffrey Wright. Not to mention it has a fantastic soundtrack, made up of both music from the sixties and more modern performers.

There is no doubt that these events played an incredibly important part in the upheaval of civil liberties which the sixties is most remembered for. However, for me at least, the documentary seems to demonstrate that the ‘revolution’ happened not because the ‘Yippies’ were tactically more intelligent than the establishment that they were rallying against. But because the establishment was so afraid that they may possibly be up against an intelligent and organized group, that they overreacted in such a dramatic fashion — both in the streets of Chicago and in the courtroom — that they assured own ultimate demise.

Sure you can argue that the establishment still has the power, but in a time where repressed citizens can use the internet to announce their plight to the world (such as the recent ‘election‘ in Iran) it is impossible to understand how the events in Chicago took place in a country claiming to be free. [source]

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