Last Updated: March 7, 2008By Tags:

(BY SAÏDEH PAKRAVAN) Abbie Hoffman died at age 52 by swallowing 150 phenobarbital pills—probably a suicide though the accident thesis was never quite ruled out. A few years later, Jerry Rubin was hit by a car while jaywalking in LA, Bobby Seale, etc. etc. You would read these actual facts in the where are they now—or, more aptly, where are they not now—at the end of a lesser film. But with Chicago 10 Brett Morgen has created a profoundly original film where nothing much is what you would normally expect. Using animation for the trial (based on actual transcripts) of the yippy leaders and news footage in a somewhat choppy but always coherent ensemble, he gives us a timely account of the events that led to the arrest and eventual trial of the social activists who descended on Chicago with tens of thousands of followers in July ‘68, to protest against the Vietnam war and the Democratic convention being held in Mayor Daley’s city. Despite the mayhem created by the convergence of these huge crowds of kids, often tripping on acid and other Leary-recommended drugs of choice, we can smile now at the nostalgic trip to that age of innocence. Innocence, after the assassination of MLK and RFK, the additional troops that Johnson had just ordered to the Vietnam slaughterhouse, society bursting at the seams in a social and political revolution of sorts in search of meaning? Sure. The world was not cynical yet, AIDS and carbon emission awareness were in the future, and the first generation of kids not dressing like their parents and not wanting to follow in their footsteps truly believed in a brotherhood of men (from which the pigs, as cops were none too affectionately called back then, or sneering conservatives like the judge presiding at the trial of the Chicago 10—or 7 or 8 depending on who you counted in—would be excluded). As Morgen tells it, (against a musical score varying between soaring pomposity and Eminem), for a few days Chicago was not only a “police state” as Cronkite called it then but the symbol of an idea that maybe, just maybe, enough selfless people linking arms could reverse the inevitable. We know better now.

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