The whole world is watching
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
The entire trial took six months and there were a lot of errors that made it rigged and biased.
The Academy Award nominations were announced last week on March 15 and all the films and short films that are nominated this year are available now in streaming services and digital. In the next few weeks until the awards are given on April 25, I will do analysis of some of the films that could win awards.
One of the classes that I took this term is World History Since 1945 where we talked about watershed moments in the second half of the twentieth century, during a watershed moment with the coronavirus pandemic. One of those moments was in 1968 during the Vietnam War and predominant figures including Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated leading to a lot of unrest in the streets and opposition against the United States involvement in Vietnam. A few protest groups came together in a park in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention in 1968 with a common goal of ending the war peacefully.
This led to the trial of the century with The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Academy Award and Emmy winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin presenting it in a way that makes it relevant today. While the trial focused on seven defendants, there was another defendant who was also involved but not recognized because of the times. The first few minutes of the film introduces all of the key people in the trial including Tom Hayden (Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne) and Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp) from the Students for a Democratic Society. They then introduce the leaders of the Yippies, Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), the leader of MOBE David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), a science teacher named Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins) and one of his students, John Froines (Daniel Flaherty), and the leader of the Black Panthers Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).
The entire trial took six months and there were a lot of errors that made it rigged and biased. The judge of the trial Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella) was racist towards Bobby since he ignored the leader’s complaints about his lawyer not being present and not accepting key evidence from him. Julius even told his security guards to put a cloth in Bobby’s mouth and he was so stern you probably do not want him in your trial.
The lawyers of the plaintiffs including Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) appointed by Richard Nixon’s Attorney General were told to make sure that the men are found guilty even though they were doing peaceful protests and there was evidence that the police planned to beat up protesters. Despite that, they did not agree with the findings, they still did their jobs but kind of got along with the defence. The key moment that leads to the verdict of the trial is when Tom tells the crowd “If blood is going to flow, then let it flow all over the city!”
I think this resonates with what happened during the insurrection on Capital Hill four months after the film was released, except in a more negative way than what happened in 1968. Various phrases could mean other things and it could backfire even when a protester told everyone to run the hill in another protest. Throughout the trial, they go back and forth between that, flashbacks, and Abbie doing stand-up with the pacing of Sorkin’s fast conversations.
They connect and show that it leads to a conclusion of what happened during the protests. Although the Chicago 7 were sent to prison, they did their job of being heard about the Vietnam War and law evolved in the next 53 years to make sure that something like this does not happen again. The Trial of the Chicago 7 is available now on Netflix.