DVD Review: CHICAGO 10

Paramount Home Entertainment
Release date: August 26th, 2008
MSRP: $29.98

Director: Brett Morgen
Stars (Voices): Hank Azaria, Nick Nolte, Roy Scheider, Mark Ruffalo, Jeffery Wright, Amy Ryan, Liev Schreiber

In 1968, Chicago hosted the Democratic National convention.. At the convention, what had already been a rough year (RFK was killed, George Wallace was running as an independent and would certainly draw from the southern democratic base) suddenly became much worse.

As the Democrats organized to nominate Hubert Humphrey as their candidate for president, anti-war protesters decided to stage a large protest in the middle of the city.
The protest turned to complete chaos and the police responded quickly and with force. Walter Cronkite declared Chicago, at that moment, a “police state.”
The Chicago 10 is a imaginative documentary that looks at the events leading up to the riots as well as the trial of the masterminds (Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner, Jerry Rubin, Dave Dellinger, , and Bobby Seale) behind the protests.

Much of the film is media footage of the convention, but the courtroom is where things get interesting. Since no footage was recorded, Chicago 10 uses rotoscoping (Ala A Scanner Darkly, Waking Life), along with the court transcripts, to give us an animated rendition of the explosive, contentious trial.

The trial truly was the establishment going head to head with the burgeoning radical movement. The defendants pushed the limits, while the judge attempted to maintain order by limiting their rights. Two of the defendants, Abby Hoffman and Jerry Rubin wore black judges robes to court. When the Judge (also named Hoffman) ordered that the two remove the robes, only to find they had fake police uniforms on underneath.

Also worth a mention is the talented cast that lend their voices: Hank Azaria, Nick Nolte, Mark Ruffalo, Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Wright, Roy Scheider, and Liev Schreiber among others.

While some may have issues with the use of animation, I think it reflects the theatrical nature of the trial. The defendants went out of their way to put on a production, perhaps focusing more on their supporters than the legal system.

The contrast between the animation and grainy media footage of the riots is jarring at times, maybe that is intentional.

On occasion, the picture feels preachy and a tad self-righteous, but it is a fascinating film that educates while entertaining.

Order Chicago 10 from Amazon.

Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from myself, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.