"Chicago 10": A Visceral, Compelling Look at a Youth Movement [VIDEO]
I have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder against Boomers. I know every generation takes issue with the one that sired it, but my gripe is as much professional as anything else. For the better part of my 20s, I made my living as a correspondent for MTV News. This meant that every four years, when MTV did its "Choose or Lose" campaign coverage, I would be jettisoned to the media circuit to jawbone pundits about the significance (or insignificance) of the youth vote. It was a sweet gig, don't get me wrong, but it got to be a little like Groundhog Day. Inevitably, after I parroted my talking points, the Boomer anchor across from me would roll back his (or her) shoulders, twist his (or her) face into a smug grin and, as if on script, launch into some screed about "how come things aren't like 1968 anymore?" and "why does the current youth movement suck so bad compared to ours?" It took a lot of sheer willpower to keep from smashing my face into their desks on live television.
I had always dismissed Boomer nostalgia for the youth movements of the 1960s and '70s as self-aggrandizing amongst a generation whose current attachment to counterculture was taking retirement advice from Dennis Hopper in his Ameriprise Financial ads. But Brett Morgen's latest film Chicago 10 knocked that chip off my shoulder ... somewhat. I'm not too big to admit when I'm wrong, and frankly, after seeing Chicago 10 I'm inclined to say that those smug bastards may be on to something. So if you've ever felt left down by that one protest march you attended, or that joining a Facebook group was actually kind of weak when it comes to making a difference, I highly recommend you check out Chicago 10. It's a visceral, compelling look at the energy, character and struggles of a youth movement facing real stakes in its mission to stop a war and affect social change.
I got a chance to see Chicago 10 for the first time a few weeks ago during a screening at the USC Film School. At first, it was a bit disorienting. I had expected a traditional documentary and, instead, got a pastiche of animation and archival footage set to a contemporary soundtrack. Brett told the audience that his goal was to make a movie for now, not to contribute to more Boomer mythologizing by polishing up some historical relic. In that regard, he hit his mark. A lot of the struggles the Chicago 10 face seem eerily familiar: the man on the street who can't be bothered by politics, the pro-status quo noise machine, the entrenched political establishment deaf to the sounds of social change. It gives you an immense amount of respect for the 10 and their willingness to put themselves on the line in a very intense prison trial. That kind of devotion to ideals and political heroism does seem in short supply these days (say what you will about the protest movement going to the Internet, it is still largely anonymous). But mostly, you leave the film feeling inspired by the capacity of a small group of kids to do something great and the spirit and energy in which they did it.
Chicago 10 comes out this week and like all fine little movies, it only has a short time to get people's attention before distributors yank it out of theatres for some rote piece of mind-numbing pabulum. Check it out. It's worth the $10 bucks and who knows, you may even leave the theater with some ideas of how to start a movement of your own.