The passing of Tim Russert is a blow to mainstream journalism. Having watched him on "Meet the Press" since 1991, I always felt that he was digging for the truth, regardless of political bias. He managed to be both respectful and combative. The man knew history and he always seemed to find the missing quote that would bedevil an elusive politician. Mr. Russert clarified the truth behind one's propaganda.
**Chicago 10** is propaganda. If the filmmaker's intention was to present a historical document of the 1968 Democratic Convention Chicago riots, the producers might have provided more biographical information about the Chicago 7, most notably Thomas Hayden. Hayden and his girlfriend (and future ex wife) Jane Fonda visited North Vietnam, while the Vietcong still held American Prisoners of War, most notably current Republican nominee Senator John McCain.
Instead, **Chicago 10** presents stories related to the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. The thrust of the movie features the four days of the convention that nominated Hubert Humphrey for President. The focus is about the protesters who slept on the streets and in the parks. While most of the protesters are upset with Lyndon Baines Johnson's escalation of the Vietnam War, there are other protesters who want either rational laws for marijuana and more animal rights.
The narrative thread of **Chicago 10** is the represented by cartoons. Considered a carnival, Director Brett Morgen presents the Chicago 10 trial as an animated feature and voiced by several mainstream actors. The dialog is based on transcripts from the courtroom. Presided by the stuffy Judge Julius Hoffman (the late Roy Scheider), the Chicago 10 group of hippies and yippies attempt to turn the courtroom into a freak show. The ringleader is Abbot “Abbie” Hoffman (Hank Azaria), who sees the trial “conceived as theater.“ When court recesses, Hoffman calls a radio disc jockey to talk about the circus he and his Yippy brothers are presenting.
The trial gets ugly when Bobby Seale (Jeffrey Wright) challenges Judge Hoffman's authority. Acting as his own lawyer, Seale is frequently held in contempt of court. In an attempt to quiet Bobby Seale, Hoffman's solution ends up creating sympathy for this former leader of the Black Panthers. Until Judge Hoffman stepped over the line, the **Chicago 10** defendants represented behavior of an emotionally arrested adolescent.
As a primer to the Woodstock Culture, **Chicago 100** succeeds. Beyond the animated drama, the audience sees stock footage of Mayor Daley's tough stance on law and order. The documentary footage also reveals how organized and confrontational the protestors became. One witnesses the protestors saluting the war officers with a “Seige Heil,” one wonders if the protestors have the capacity to understand how close minded their own actions are.
Until Election Day in November, filmmakers will be releasing a series of motion pictures that will examine politics and history. While **Chicago 10** is a reminder that Free Speech in the United States of America is as alive as ever, ticket buyers should be aware of the fine line between fantasy and reality.