The Trial of Chicago 7 was inspired by the Chicago Seven/ Chicago Eight also known as the Conspiracy Eight/ Conspiracy Seven and the defendants comprised of Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines and Lee Weiner. These individuals were charged by the US federal government with conspiracy, inciting to riot, and other charges related to anti-Vietnam War and countercultural protests that took place in Chicago, Illinois, on the occasion of the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
The movie was directed by Aaron Sorkin who had established during an interview that Trail of Chicago 7 was influenced by many documented protests scenes and the depictions in modern day cinema. He stated that in his opinion one of the protest scenes done right was in Argo which was directed by Ben Affleck. He also specified that one of the key differentiators for the film was actually the brilliant use of music that truly allowed the movie to depict emotion in the rawest sense. His other main goal was to allow the courtroom scene to show the viewers the powers of the federal government reigning over the civilians in question.
This movie focused on the importance of freedom of expression and free speech to overthrow the government when need be which is a right that can be legally exercised based of the First Amendment. This film may have just come at a perfect time given the current political situation going on worldwide and this films shows just how corrupt a system can truly be by undermining the civilians with the ideals of what is considered to be best for the country. It also successfully demonstrates how in most cases the voice of the public is suppressed just for political gain and the people in power will stop at no costs to attain their goal.
Spread Peace Not War
The movie was set in 1968 during the Democratic National Protest and was also during the time of the Vietnam War which spanned from 1955 to 1975. Prior to and during the convention—which took place at the International Amphitheatre—rallies, demonstrations, marches, and attempted marches took place on the streets and in the lakefront parks, about five miles away from the convention site. These protests were held to bring back American Troops from Vietnam.
The war had erupted when the North Vietnamese attacked the US Navy in the Gulf of Tonkin. This incident gave the USA the excuse it needed to escalate the war. Gulf of Tonkin Resolution – US Congress gave President Lyndon Johnson permission to wage war on North Vietnam. The first major contingent of US Marines arrived in 1965. The primary reason for the war was due to the USA fearing the spread of communism which was an ideology popularized by Russia at the time. The USA was afraid that communism would spread to South Vietnam and then the rest of Asia. It decided to send money, supplies and military advisers to help the South Vietnamese Government.
2.2 million American men out of an eligible pool of 27 million were drafted during the Vietnam War Era. At this time there was no proper system in place so men between the ages of 18 and 26 were vulnerable to being drafted. This call to action happened during the presence of Lyndon B. Johnson as president of the USA who would later be replaced by Richard Nixon. This was also a political shift from the democratic party to the republican when this change of power had occurred.
The Perfect Casting
The casting for this film was tremendously done not just from the perspective of physical similarity but also form the nature of these individuals. Sacha Baron Cohen plays the role of Abbie Hoffman who is this eccentric individual who happends to be the leader of the Yippie movement and his depiction was absolutely brilliant. He had previously gained his fame from his creation and portrayal of fictional satirical characters, including Ali G, Borat Sagdiyev, Brüno Gehard and Admiral General Aladeen. Baron Cohen graduated in 1993 with upper-second-class honors from Cambridge University and as an undergraduate, Baron Cohen wrote his thesis on the American civil rights movement proving once more what a perfect role he had played in this film.
Eddie Redmayne plays the role of Tom Hayden who was an American social and political activist, author, and politician. Redmayne made a name for himself early on with films such the Theory of Everything where he portrayed the role of Stephen Hawking. Redmayne went on to read History of Art at Trinity College, Cambridge, from where he graduated with 2:1 Honours in 2003. Joseph Gordon-Levitt took u the roll of Richard Schultz who was the assistant to the then U.S. Attorney. Levitt got his claim to fame after being a child actor in the 90’s American sitcom, Third Rock From the Sun and for his leading performance in (500) Days of Summer.
Yahya Abdul Mateen II played the role of Bobby Seal who was a member of the Black Panthers. He also allegedly faced charges for murder in Connecticut but in reality was just mixed up in the trial of Chicago 7 having only been in Chicago for 4 hours. He displayed the subtle aftertaste of racism that was still evident in the political and judicial system at the time. It was obvious through the depiction that there was far more bias against those of color and varying ethnicities when it came to receiving justice.
This movie focuses on how the voice of the people may in fact lead to drastic changes for the upcoming generations. Tom Hayden believed in a political change having been a writer and activist. He had published works when it came to civil rights movements and personally believed that change should be done with respect to the system. This was a contrasting opinion to what Abbie Hoffman had as he believed that the approach taken by Hayden was only viable for those with wealth and benefits. Hoffman claimed that change can be done at any level and should be accessible for all walks of life.
Abbie Hoffman and Hayden are seen arguing with each other at a point of a movie and the atmosphere is extremely bitter as the defendants have already acknowledged that the hearing is rigged. The duo may have argued but it was clear that Hoffman had huge respect for Hayden and he had read his previous works. Jerry Rubin led the revolution full of emotion and had more extrema methods of protest by teaching students how to make home made incendiary bombs. Rennie Davis was evidently a man of the people as his main goal was to note down the names of all the fallen heroes during the war in his book. David Dellinger had a peaceful approach until the point where he lost it in court and ended up striking an officer.
This event was a cultural revolution that depicted the strength of the people and the fact that no individual can be put on the stand merely for his thoughts. Everyone has the freedom of expression so long as the ideology does not directly effect the wellbeing of another. The right to protest was stripped away during that particular occasion and the people wanted an answer. The act of merely voicing for change cant be accounted for in court and so the system had pulled the dirtiest tricks in the book by filing for contempt in court to the defendants in the case, causing them to be given the most absurd sentences.
It Was Still a Win
Even though the defendants were sentenced to 5 years in prison it was still an overall victory in the eyes of the public. In their final statement where Tom Hayden was asked to make a short and concise closing statement, he ended up defying the judge and reading the names of all the fallen heroes during the Vietnam War. He brought back the spotlight to what truly mattered which was the people. This was a beautiful moment in the film and even Richard Schultz had stood to pay his respects despite his difference in opinions. He may have been on the opposing side but o him the people were the ones that mattered.
This is also managed to shine the light on police brutality something that has clearly managed to remain in the system to this day. The movie demonstrates how an abuse of power can in fact cause people to break and start to demand what is rightfully theirs. It was also the first film to truly document the initiatives of freedom of expression and protest. This movie could not have come out at a better time considering the state of the world and all that has happened.
Overall this was an amazing movie for all those who are interested in civil rights but it also acts as a piece of timeless education for everyone. This movie set the precedent by bringing to light the importance of holding on to our freedoms and being able to put forward an opinion without having to worry about our thoughts and ideas. The movie may have documented a piece of American history but its safe to say that it speaks volumes for everyone around the world.
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