The Trial of the Chicago 7

In Movies by Ricardo LapeiraLeave a Comment

Disclaimer: as a non-U.S. citizen it is hard for me to understand the political intricacies of a complex time in the country’s recent history. However, I have tried to document myself in order to write this piece. If you feel there is any imprecision or something that needs to be corrected, please feel free to hit me up with a comment below. 

There’s a long tradition of movies that revolve around historical trials: this genre is often referred to as legal drama. For some reason, justice-related matters have the power to grab our attention like few other things. I suppose there’s nothing surprising about this. After all, justice is directly related to power, and power is just something that fascinates the human mind. 

There’s something about understanding power that captivates us. The trial of the Chicago 7, a movie by Aaron Sorkin about one of the most politicized trials in the U.S., is a great movie to watch if you are into this type of movie.

The Context

The 60s were a convoluted time for the U.S. The country underwent a heavily politicized environment in which the Vietnam war was central to everyday life. The countercultural movement was at its height during the late second half of the decade, and many factions of society were pressing hard to achieve their goals. From all sides, a revolution seemed imminent. 

Aside from the war, one of the events that defined the era was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Political turmoil was the inevitable result of this combination. It is no wonder then that different types of protests became the norm through many parts of the country. 

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 (2020) – RESEÑA – Seventh Art Studio

This is the case of the Chicago democratic national convention of 1968. With a divided country and a war taking place in foreign territory that was tearing it apart, the election of the democratic candidate was seen by many as a crucial point for what would define the country’s future. Two candidates, one who could be defined as pro-war and the other as anti-war, were seen by democrats as the two possible choices for the upcoming election. 

That’s why many different groups decided to gather in the city of Chicago and protest, and as you might expect, things got out of hand. As a result of the turmoil, a group of 7 people who were protesting was sent to trial. The trial went on for months. The rest is history. 

The Movie

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a powerful legal drama film that is definitely worth your time. Although the movie starts in a slow manner, it eventually builds up into a captivating story that unravels through the different perspectives of those involved in the trial. Each of the stories shows the intricacies of the political battle from a different perspective. 

Personally, I think that the most interesting story throughout the movie comes from the character interpreted by Sacha Baron Cohen, Abbie Hoffman. However, it is interesting to see how different perspectives converged into the same place, each with its unique perspective. 

The Trial of the Chicago 7': The Sixties Told in Sorkinese - Rolling Stone

The film has many moments where one can’t avoid but laugh of despair, frustrated at a system that sometimes seems to be a joke. And yet, it also has some moments that incite deep reflections about the purpose and nature of justice, of the legal system and whether it really works as intended or is just a theatrical representation. Whichever the case is, one will surely be challenged to think about politics and the purpose of individuals in society. 

In case you are not familiar with the outcome of the trial, I don’t want to ruin the movie for you. I think that not knowing beforehand how it ends is perfect, so, my recommendation is to try to avoid searching anything about it if you haven’t already.

Abbie Hoffman

As I mentioned before, I think the most interesting story in the movie comes from Abbie Hoffman. To be honest, before watching the movie I had never even heard of him. Hoffman was one of the founders of a political party, the Youth International Party, also known as the Yippies. The party was known for its theatrical way of doing politics, and it became known as a symbol of counterculture, anti-authoritarianism, and “symbol politics”. 

Abbie was an important symbol of the party and the countercultural movement of the time. However, it seems his career went on a downward spiral, and eventually had to live as a fugitive for trafficking cocaine. However, his image still lives on as a symbol of anarchy and counterculture. 

An intriguing character, he wrote a book titled ‘Steal this book’, of which it is said that stores did not want to sell because people stole it. It is unclear how many copies have actually been sold. Not surprisingly, it has become one of the symbols of American counterculture, giving advice on how to fight corporations and government, a true anarchic gem.

Final Thoughts on The Trial of the Chicago 7

I definitely recommend you watch the movie, even if you are not into the legal drama genre. Before watching the movie I was afraid that it would be way too slow, leading me to boredom. Luckily this was not the case.

Aaron Sorkin is able to masterfully engage the audience. However, at least in my case, I would have preferred the movie to be a bit longer so that some of the secondary characters might have been explored in greater depth. I feel this could have been a nice touch. 

Don’t hesitate and watch the movie. It is a great opportunity to learn about one of the events that marked the political landscape of the past century.

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