In March of 1968 a secret meeting of anti-war groups took place in northern Illinois to discuss what types of protests should be organized for the Democratic National Convention to be held in Chicago that year. The discussions were led by two groups; MOBE (Mobilization Against the War) represented by David Dellinger, Rennie Davis, and Tom Hayden and the newly formed YIPPIES (Youth International Party) represented by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. The protests were being stepped up in response to President Lyndon Johnson's increased involvement in Vietnam which so far had resulted in nearly 20,000 American dead and countless wounded. In addition to the draft call being increased from 17,000 "over a period of time" to 35,000 per month, Johnson had also increased American military presence from 75,000 to 125,000 in one fell swoop.
The two groups had very different approaches to the anti-war movement. MOBE was a traditional group with straight forward, easily understood methods. "We are coming to Chicago...not to disrupt the convention, not to confront the police, the National Guard troops, or the men of the United States Army. But to challenge the policies of militarization that have been felt so strongly and brutally in Vietnam," said MOBE co-founder Rennie Davis. The YIPPIES on the other hand were wild and crazy guys who believed that politics had become all lights and magic with which the current administration dazzled and then duped the public. Abbie Hoffman said,"...politics is the way you live not who you support. It's not in terms of rallies or speeches or political programs. It's in terms of image and transforming people's lives." When you put the MOBE and the YIPPIES together something was going to happen--and Chicago's despotic Mayor Richard Daley wasn't going to like it.
CHICAGO 10 is an exciting, vibrant recreation of the anti-war protests surrounding the Democratic Convention that resulted in the arrests and subsequent trials of Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, Lee Weiner, John Froines, and Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panthers who had only been IN Chicago for 2 or 3 hours at the time of the demonstration! You may say, that's only 8 and you're right. The other 2 are their lawyers Leonard Weinglass and William Kunstler, who racked up almost 5 years in contempt of court charges during the course of the trial. The film is composed of both live action footage of the real events (most notably the actual the attempts to march upon the convention center and later attacks by police and National Guardsmen upon the marchers) and animation that looks as if it were rotoscoped. The animation is used primarily for the courtroom scenes and uses an extremely colorful palette that gives everything a garish, almost carnival-like appearance--which is very appropriate given the nature of the trial. This is such a beautifully crafted film that I'm afraid I could never do it justice. The real tale is told as two threads, one of the trial and the other of the protest march that finally twist together to form the complete story of who these people really were and what actually happened in Chicago.
How you respond to CHICAGO 10 will (alas) probably be determined by your political leanings. If you're a conservative who feels that all forms of bureaucracy should be revered then you will undoubtedly feel little sympathy for the protesters as they get the bejesus beaten out of them by the Chicago cops, who still have a tendency to do that to innocent people for no apparent reason on occasion. If you were a liberal who remembers those days then this film is a great way to see how old you really are. If you now look at these guys as rude little bastards who had it coming, then you should probably fill out that card that the AARP sent you because you are now officially old and your new found conservative views reflect your age. As for me, I always found Abbie Hoffman to be rude and abrasive. and I doubted that the YIPPIE'S theatrical antics, such as their attempt to levitate the Pentagon, were ever helpful to the peace movement. But nobody deserved what Daley dished out. The whole world WAS watching us in 1968 and what they saw was a nation that sadly couldn't live up to it's own standards.