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Chicago 10 | Review

Beaten, but not Down: Strongly crafted, but flawed doc is limited in appeal.

Proving that a judge’s gavel stick is not a recent invention, Brett Morgen’s time-lined courtroom doc – a hybrid between rotoscoping-like animation and well-edited archival footage might not beat out the in-court theatrics of the O.J Simpson trial, but it certainly cues viewers in on the zoo-like, comedy club ambiance that was in finger pointing, pointless trial that came about after the disaster of 68’s post-Chicago Democratic Convention. Chicago 10 has a zeal about it – a war cry and tomahawk chomp towards social and political injustices but this particular portion of American history might be of little interest to the generations named after the baby-boomers.

Bring up the word “draft” with today’s youth and you’ll most likely obtain a reference to an athlete’s first step into the pro leagues. Bring up the word “assassination” and it won’t carry the same burden as it once did forty years back. Born out of transcripts and archival footage – Morgen’s cataloguing of events is a formidable attempt on revitalizing forgotten chapters from the history books while in the same moment passively making no attempts at commenting on the material making no newly discovered claims or observations.

Excluding the names, groups and associations that are the fabric of this rocky period in politics, Morgen casts several recognizable voices to play the personalities, the caricatures and the clowns that filled the courtroom – this certainly interjects liveliness to what must have been a painstaking attempt to take the best testimony from hundreds of hours of transcripts.

Unlike The Kid Stays in the Picture, Morgen might have found it harder to work with more than one bigger than life character – the wide range of subjects will ensure a lopsidedness in accounts – but it is the impassioned and enraged outside the courtroom a la anime set-up that is the spark of the film. Among the flurry of rioting footage there is a very vocal elderly lady thrown into a slammer on wheels that says more about defiance than courtroom tirades.

While colorful animation and a contemporary soundtrack featuring blistering sounds from the likes of Rage against the Machine and Beastie Boys might symbolically match the sentiment found in the images, it fails to amplify what it was to pound that fist into the air, and while the pertinence of such a doc in today’s social climate can obviously be related to the breach of ethics under the Bush administration – it may be a tad more difficult to unite the movie-going troops who most likely share the anti-war sentiments but are far from belonging to an anti-war movement. The ‘ipod’ies have little in similitude to the ‘Yippies’

2007 Sundance Film Festival – January 18th.

Rating 2.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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