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DVD Review: Chicago 10 – Speak Your Peace

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I have always been fascinated with history and why things came about the way that they did, especially those things that I have heard about from secondary sources, where there's often some bias involved. This year being not only an election year, but the fortieth anniversary of the Chicago Democratic convention, made me wonder just a bit about the whole transformation that came about from that convention from long ago.

Growing up thirty miles from Chicago, and having parents who were Democrats, I heard definitive opinions of what went on at that convention. Being too young to have but passing impressions of something going on, everything that I knew was hearsay and not fact. Add to that my current knowledge of the makeup of today's Democratic party, and there was a lot that I didn't understand about how this all fit together. Chicago 10: Speak Your Peace helps clear that up.

When I first received Chicago 10: Speak Your Peace and looked at the cover, it contained these animated characters that looked sort of cheesy and I wondered a bit about the quality of this documentary. Would it be informative, or annoying? It had a subtitle: "The convention was drama. The trial was comedy," which also made me wonder about the quality.

Even around ten minutes into the 90-minute feature, I was still wondering about the quality because some of the dialog seemed to be drowned out by the music and it all seemed to be uneven. It wasn't until some point after that everything settled down in the film and it really started getting its grove, and by then it had me.

Okay, first it is partly animated with actors providing the voices for the animation. Some of these actors include Hank Azaria, Dylan Baker, Nick Nolte, Mark Ruffalo, Roy Scheider, Liev Schreiber, and Jeffrey Wright. It is also partly traditional documentary with film clips, news briefs, and interviews with the participants.

The main focus of this film is on the conspiracy trial of the Chicago 8, which included Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seals, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner, David Dellinger, and Tom Hayden. The title Chicago 10 refers to the fact that the two Lawyers William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass, went to prison also and thus ten were involved.

This trial, as well as some of the speeches that the members of the eight gave during this time, are all in animation. This was obviously done because there is no film to present, especially of the trial. The rest is all film documentary of the time. One puzzling item to me is why was the music from beyond the time period? I could understand the use of "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath which came out in 1970, a couple years after the trial, but the reason to use rap music in the background is beyond me.

The timeline of the trial takes us through the planning and subsequent convention. Throughout we take the transcripts of the trial and merge that with the film and this works very, very well. The only special feature is really just a Chicago 10 Remix Video Contest winner that was created by Gine Telaroli.

Chicago 10 is very well done and whether you are Democrat or Republican, whether you think that these participants are heroes or bozos, I think that this film is well worth viewing. It provides a unique view into a period of history that many have not really understood. I have to highly recommend this video.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.