Living through 2020 is experiencing history in the making, with a confluence of events, unlike anything before. And yet, people cannot help comparing the current era to other famous years, from the 1918 influenza pandemic to the 1968 civil rights protests. For those wondering what the world of 1968 was like, and why people compare the current anti-police brutality demonstrations to the "Chicago riots" of that era, Netflix has arrived with a timely film. Moreover, Netflix’s The Trial Of The Chicago 7 trailer emphasizes this is not the first time the whole world has been watching.
Though the Vietnam War technically began under President Eisenhower in the mid-1950s, President Kennedy and later President Johnson broadened and escalated the conflict. Their actions widened the Army’s current conscription program (aka the draft), sending thousands of young people overseas to die. By 1968, it had become a deeply contentious issue, and the anti-war demonstrations were being aimed at the Democratic party. These culminated with protestors pouring into Chicago to take to the streets in front of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, in hopes of making their voices heard.
Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley promised "Law and Order" would be maintained. Over the next seven days, the protests swelled, with incidents like the shooting of 17-year-old protestor Dean Johnson in broad daylight by the cops until, on Aug. 28, riots finally broke out. The police brutalized the demonstrators, footage of which was broadcast live on TV.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 retells this moment of history by focusing on what happened after.
Those who put themselves forward as the demonstration leaders, the Youth International Party (the Yips or Yippies), and the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE) were arrested and put on trial. They were Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, John Froines, Rennie Davis, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale.
Yes, you counted right, that’s eight. When the trial started, it was known as The Chicago 8. But Seale, quickly realizing there would be no justice for him in the openly racist Judge Julius Hoffman’s court, had his case severed from the rest of the group early on.
The cast of this film is stacked, by the way, starting with the inspired choice of Sacha Baron Cohen as the legendary Abbie Hoffman and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Seale. Eddie Redmayne, Daniel Flaherty, Jeremy Strong, John Carroll Lynch, and Noah Robbins play the other five defendants, with Mark Rylance as their lawyer, William Kunstler. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Keaton are the prosecutors, and the great Frank Langella plays Judge Julius Hoffman.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is currently in limited release in theaters before coming to Netflix on Oct. 16, 2020.
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