This is What Revolution Looks Like

Anti-war protest 1968
Photo credit:

Anti-war protest 1968 Photo credit:

Emily Hayden, Contributor

Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay, and directed, the film The Trial of the Chicago 7. The film stars the actors Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It was released on Sept. 5, 2020, on the streaming platform Netflix. The producers were Marc E. Platt, Stuart M. Besser, Tyler Thompson and Matt Jackson. The film is rated R with a running time of two hours and ten minutes. It was filmed in Patterson, New Jersey at two different colleges, and it is a Paramount Pictures film. 

The film is about how, in 1968, eight different defendants were arrested with the suspicion that they were planning a conspiracy against the government, going over state lines to plan an aggressive riot about the upcoming Democratic convention. They were originally arrested in 1968, and the trial continued for over six months going over into the year 1969.

The country was outraged over the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) and President Johnson’s draft lottery taking place for more soldiers to go fight in the Vietnam War. Most of the riots took place in Chicago, outside and near where the Democratic convention took place, and in Lincoln Park that served as a “home-base” for the protesters. 

The defendants who were charged with conspiracy and starting the riots were David Dellinger, Rennie Davis, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, John Froines, Lee Weiner and Bobby Seale. They were a part of three different groups: Bobby Seale was a part of the Black Panthers, who were not at the rally and not involved with the protest at all. “The Black Panthers” were a group of African Americans who patrolled neighborhoods and made sure that they were safe. Hoffman and Rubin were a part of the Youth International Party (“Yippies”), a political group of mostly young people, which was founded on the idea of free speech and anti-war. The rest were democratic activists who were known for not starting riots and instead gave speeches and held peaceful demonstrations. 

The movie is very powerful and can still be relevant to what is going on in the world today with the Black Lives Matter protests going on all over the world and how the police are handling these protests. Today’s protests are about racial injustices and, in the film, it was anti-war protests. It is still the same message of problems in the government and the judicial system, while also touching on the issues of racism and discrimination towards African Americans. 

The film has very powerful dialogue and strong quotes that leave the audience in shock about what went on at that point in time and how it can relate to modern society. Some of the powerful quotes from the movie include a quote from David Dellinger, who said, “We’re not going to storm the convention with tanks or mace, but we are going to storm the hearts and minds of the American people.”

Another powerful quote is, “He has a dream? Well, now he has a bullet in his head. Martin’s dead. Malcolm’s dead. Medgar’s dead. Bobby’s dead. Jesus is dead. They tried it peacefully. We’re going to try something else [referring to Martin Luther King Jr. and his famous ‘I Had A Dream’ speech].” This quote from the film represents the anger that the youth was feeling and wanting to make a difference and better the world for future generations that could still be facing the same injustices and problems that they did.

Lastly, the following quote is from a conversation between Richard Schultz and Abbie Hoffman, which shows the problems with the government’s reaction to protesting for change within the system: “Do you have contempt for your government… [Schultz] it is a problem that you can’t answer that question… [Schultz]… I’ve never been put on trial for my thoughts before [Hoffman].” The First Amendment of the United States Constitution declares that you have the right to protest the government and the right to free speech. In the film, the seven men were not only not allowed their right to protest the government, but the eighth was also stripped of his right to a fair trial because he was not allowed to have his lawyer present because of the lawyer’s injury and the judge refused to change the starting date of the trial. These quotes show how the protestors wanted to create change not only in their government, but also in the world, and they were denied the right to do so. 

I would recommend this film because of its message of how different people can come together to try and fight for the greater good if given something they are willing to fight for. The drama shows real-life people who all had different ways of trying to end the war with different protesting styles with varying levels of violence, but they came together to protest the war and how the government treated its citizens.

I liked the drama of the film and how it evoked many reactions, causing me to be on the edge of my seat waiting for what was going to happen next. Also, the elements of humor in the film can make it a little light-hearted compared to the heavy topic that is displayed in most of the film. The movie starts with the trial then, as time goes on, you see what events had happened to bring them to the courtroom to see if they are the ones who started a big and violent riot.