Chicago 10 is the story of the Chicago Seven (plus three)...
By Ned Jordan
Chicago 10 tells the story of the conspiracy trail against the Chicago Seven
(the '10' comes from the addition of Bobby Seale and defense attorneys William
Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass) in the wake of the riots at the 1968 Democratic
Convention in Chicago, but it's not your typical documentary. The majority
of of time is devoted to animated highlights of the trial itself, culled from
the original transcripts of the trial. Interspersed with the trial scenes
are original footage from the events leading up to the riots as well as clips
from contemporary news reports on the event. There's no narrator and no
modern interviews; the director Brett Morgan prefers to let the events speak for
While Chicago 10 doesn't overtly support one side or the other, it does
devote just about all of its screen time to the Yippee movement leaders behind
the demonstrations, and Abbie Hoffman in particular. They are reflected in
a fairly positive light, although you are left with the impression that the
Yippees spent a lot of effort goading their opposition. They were
ostensibly pacifists, but acted like the big brother who mercilessly teases his
little brother in the hopes that the little brother will strike out in
frustration so that he can run to mom and the the little brother in trouble for
fighting. Of course the establishment's willingness to lash out when
provoked didn't help matters much either.
Chicago 10 makes for some interesting viewing, but it would have been a more
powerful film if it did not focus so much on the buffoonery that took place
during the trial. Sometimes the cartoon hijincks of the trial just don't
mesh with the archival footage that follows, and also lessen the impact of the
unsettling aspects of the trial such as the binding and gagging of Bobby Seale.
Still it makes for worthwhile viewing, especially for those too young to have
witnessed the events on the news or in person.