The United States is waging an unpopular war abroad, the president has just called for a surge in troop levels, and thousands of protesters are planning to descend on the Democratic National Convention.
While the plot may sound familiar, especially to those living in Denver, where the Democratic convention will be held in August, the scenario is actually an integral part of “Chicago 10,” a new movie that follows the riots and subsequent conspiracy trial surrounding the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.It’s no secret that the year in question was turbulent. The Tet Offensive was intensifying fighting in Vietnam, more draftees were being called off to war,and Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were both assassinated in the span of two months. All of these events and more contributed to the violence that marred the 1968 convention, where a countless number of demonstrators were beaten and gassed by police, with the riots leading to the historic “Chicago 8” conspiracy trial held the following year. The movie title gets its name by adding in two attorneys that represented the defendants in the case.
Thankfully, the film is not a constricted look back at the world that was. There is no simple montage coddled by a Buffalo Springfield song. There are no gray-haired, erstwhile rabble-rousers recounting their memories of the trial. Instead, director Brett Morgan (“The Kid Stays in the Picture”) pushes the movie into a more contemporary setting with a modern-day soundtrack starring acts like the Eminem and Rage Against the Machine. A good portion of the feature is also animated, where transcribed scenes from the trial are voice-acted to give the whole proceeding a more cartoonish quality, a tactic that even the real defendants tried to accomplish though comedic antics in the court room. Think of a mix between “Waking Life” and “American Splendor.”
To be clear, “Chicago 10” is not made for those who lived through the times. There have already been numerous books and documentaries dedicated to the subject in the last 40 years. What makes the film unique is director Morgan’s meticulous use of archived footage and animation to bring the event to a new audience – a stratum of youngsters that are now growing up in a time when certain parallels to 1968 are undeniable.
According to the movie, the idea of a joyous revolution is still possible, but it apparently won’t come without personal sacrifice and bruises.
The movie opens in Denver at Landmark’s Chez Artiste today.