Review by Gordon Justesen
Voices: Hank Azaria, Dylan
Baker, Nick Nolte, Mark Ruffalo, Roy Scheider, Liev Schreiber, Jeffrey Wright
Director: Brett Morgen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 90 Minutes
Release Date: August 26, 2008
Some historical events seem to blow way over my head, and I feel like an absolute moron for not having known anything about them. Such was the case with the trial of the Chicago Eight, considered to be one of the most outrageous moments in courtroom history. Now having seen the unique documentary feature Chicago 10, itís safe to say that I am more than caught up on the matter.
Whatís just as fascinating as the events being reflected is the manner in which they are recreated. Filmmaker Brett Morgen, who received wide acclaim for his 2002 documenatary The Kid Stays In the Picture, has executed a first by incorporating some neat animation in the recreation of the trial. In other words, Morgen has set out to become the Robert Zemeckis of documentary filmmakers.
Archival footage and some most appropriate music tracks are also used to add a great bit of impact to the proceedings. As expected, though, itís the animated portion of the film that will no doubt be the selling point for those curious to check it out. Itís clearly an experimental form as far as documentaries go, and it will be interesting to see if the process will be used in future releases in the genre.
The events reflect around the trial of eight anti-war protestors following the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The group, which included noted demonstrators Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, were arrested and stood trial for inciting riots and violence all around Chicago. What was intended as a normal Vietnam War protest turned into pure bedlam, representing the boiling point in the dividing of the country over the war.
The biggest highlight of the trial, and the film, is easily the mistreatment of Black Panther member Bobby Seale. Seale wasnít affiliated with Hoffman, Rubin or the other demonstrators. What it illustrated was that the judicial system might have had another agenda in making Seale look just as insane a person as Hoffman, who didnít shy away from expressing himself to the press.
Through an animation process much similar to Richard Linklaterís Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, several noted actors lend their voices to those involved in the trial. Hank Azaria voices both Abbie Hoffman and lawyer Allen Ginsberg, and Dylan Baker also dual voice work as David Dellinger and David Stahl. Other voice talents include Liev Schreiber as lawyer William Kunstler, Mark Ruffalo as Jerry Rubin, Nick Nolte as lawyer Thomas Foran and the late Roy Scheider as Judge Julius Hoffman.
It all adds up to a most unique experience, in terms of both animation and documentary storytelling. Chicago 10 really delivers a ďyou-are-thereĒ feeling to the proceedings, which is invigorating for someone like me who had no knowledge of these events. Enthusiasts of both documentaries and animated fare should definitely take notice of this feature.
For the most part, the anamorphic picture is absolutely astounding in the animated portions of the film. Itís a style of animation I am new to, but it is presented in a truly remarkable form. As expected, the raw news footage doesnít fare as well, but as a whole the picture quality is quite stunning.
The 5.1 mix is quite impressive, given that documentaries arenít necessarily known for incredible sound. Dialogue delivery is on the mark, and the soundtrack playlist really blast through the channels furiously, which is to be expected when Rage Against the Machine and Eminem are among the artists providing the songs.
All thatís included on the disc is the ďChicago 10 Video Remix Contest WinnerĒ, which runs close to two minutes.
The blending of facts and unique animation make Chicago 10 a most fascinating film experiment. I see it as a technique that could really get audiences more enthusiastic about documentaries, so Iím all for this approach in future films in the genre.