Chicago 10 review by Tom Blain

We are going to Chicago not to disrupt the convention, confront the policebut to challenge the policies of Vietnam.

Chicago 10 opens with a Vietnam statistic showing how many men had been killed in the previous three years as of 1968. This statistic and the depressing minor key music that accompany the words of Lyndon B. Johnson clearly establish the side that the documentary aligns itself with.

And there in lies my problem with this documentary.

Its obvious that the film is trying to glorify the works of the 10 (or is it 7 or 8?) men who organized the Chicago DNC protests of 1968. These men (Abbie Hoffman, Rennie Davis, Tom Hayden, and so on) organized a large group of men and women to descend upon Chicago in a peaceful protest.

But before I go much further I should explain the films appearance. It is essentially broken into two overlapping parts. Parts of the film are actual documentary footage shot of the protest plus some footage previous and post-protest. These sequences detailing DAY 1, DAY 2, and so on are intercut with roto-scoped cartoony scenes of the trial of the 10 ( or was it 8 or 7?) men who organized the protest. The dialogue itself apparently comes from the actual trial dictation. Everything else, I would assume, has been directed with liberties taken.

So as I was stating before this documentary aligns itself with the protest organizers. The court scene opens with some Rage Against the Machine track; a strong choice in music if you believe in anarchy and fighting the evil government. Despite their attempt to portray real people, the actors and cartoonists re-enforce the roles of evil government through whatever means they have available. Sure the lines come from the court proceedings but they can be maneuvered and massaged to get it just how it should sound. The most striking character in my head is Judge Hoffman (not to be confused with Abbie Hoffman) who sneers at the Yippies, and speaks with this snake-like lisp, reminiscent of the GI Joe villain Cobra Commander. I have no problem with the man being old and bald, but as a viewer I felt like I was forced into believing this little old man was a facist reptile more damning than the Worm Judge from Pink Floyds The Wall. I wasnt born in the 60s, I wasnt there but I have a hard time being fed this information.

Especially when the documentary footage leaves me feeling contrary to the filmmaker. I wouldnt go as far to say that the documentary footage undermines the directors purpose but I think it only helps reinforce his point of view if the people who were being beaten by the police on video were actually the defendants themselves. This was the greatest troubling factor for me. Let me establish that:

* Yes, my personal politics align with American isolationism.
* Yes, I believe that with all the knowledge we have now that the Vietnam War was a bad idea.
* Yes, I believe that Mayor Daley and the Chicago police probably made the protest worse by imposing restrictions and following through with violence to control the crowds as they saw fit.

Im not reactionary and at times Im probably far more liberal than conservative but I cant condone the acts of the Chicago 7,8 or 10 (however you count) as saintly, justified, or even safe. I see them more as revolutionaries who put the lives of others in harms way in order to advance their notoriety first and personal politics second. There are innocent men and women behaving like their sheep getting beaten by police when these guys are up in front of the camera feeding their egos and spreading their form of gospel. The quote above states that these revolutionary leaders were not there to confront the police, but when the police set up a blockade so that they could not disrupt the convention, what happened? Confrontation. They may not have attacked the police but by disobeying Chicago executive orders they directly confronted the police.

Abbie Hoffman (the sixties version of Sideshow Bob) is the most guilty of ego feeding. He is half comedian/ half revolutionary whose behavior is probably excited by his bio-polar disorder. Its hard to follow the revolution seriously when this guy is 1/7th (or 8th or 10th?) the leadership. He takes the court proceedings as a complete joke, mocking the judge and jury in conversations on a radio DJ in New York who will put him on air.

And in the end director/writer Brett Morgen wants me to feel aligned with not only their politics but their lawyers charges that they knowingly did no wrong and were victims of government conspiracy and general governmental tyranny. Documentaries should, in my opinion, try to represent the truth. Yes they can be muckraking and expose one side over another but their intent should be to find solely the truth. While watching the Chicago 10 I got the feeling that they were trying to convince me of something. Use of actors, music, cartoons, all left a bad taste in my mouth for a movie that is supposedly a documentary. Morgen wanted to glorify these men, and its obvious. But ironically, I'm not sure if he did. And Im sure there is some tie in to the Iraq War along with the 40th anniversary of the Chicago DNC, and while I do agree with pulling our troops out of the Middle East, I cant find it in my heart to align myself with the politics of this film or the Chicago (whatever number).




3 out of 10 Jackasses
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