Daily Recco, March 16: The Trial of Chicago 7, a masterpiece worthy of the Oscars

Aaron Sorkin’s masterpiece is a brilliant courtroom drama that is set in 1960s America and is a mirror of the world and the times we live in.

 |  2-minute read |   16-03-2021
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A courtroom drama based on real-life events is not something you can easily spin into an exhilarating story. Unless, of course, you factor in a genius called Aaron Sorkin. From A Few Good Men (1992) to The Social Network (2010), he has consistently amazed us with brilliant screenplays and plot lines. And he repeats the feat with The Trial of Chicago 7 (2020) that has taken him to the Oscars (nomination, as of now, though we are fully rooting for a win) — yet again.

The plot revolves around recreating the infamous trial of anti-Vietnam and countercultural protesters by the US government in Chicago in 1968. Eight anti-war activists, of whom one would be given a mistrial and taken out of the proceedings, were up against a vengeful administration and fighting against a biased and corrupt judicial system.

The story is of the dissenters voicing their opposition in a “democracy” against a government that spares no muscle in incriminating them. Sounds familiar to the stories at home making it to the headlines these days? That is the magic of Sorkin, who reconstructs the thrill of the political trial, making it relevant to our times – an age where the smallest dissent invokes accusations of sedition. And to think of it, Sorkin wrote the script back in 2007.

The unrest over racism in the US in the 1960s is ably and aptly brought out by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who plays the only black defendant Bobby Seale. Judge Julius Hoffman (portrayed by Frank Langella) consistently denies Seale his constitutional rights to defend himself (after his original attorney fell ill) or even to speak in the courtroom. In one scene, Seale shouts in the court: “The US attorney wanted a Negro defendant to scare the jury. I was thrown in to make the group look scarier.” The brutal treatment by Hoffman includes Seale being gagged, beaten up and shackled in the courtroom and is eventually jailed for contempt.

Feel free to draw parallels to the age in India when a certain religious or social group has to face the political nature of criminal trials. Or to the role of the state towards channelling and aggravating public outrage against the said section of the society.

The irony of peace protests leading to one of the most brutal trials in American history is not lost on anyone.

The Trial of Chicago 7 has been nominated to the Oscars 2021 under six categories including the Best Picture and the Best Original Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin). As you stream it on Netflix, see of yourself how the America of 1960s and the world in 2021 are splitting political images of each other.

Also read: George Orwell's 1984, the future that came true

Writer

Rajeshwari Ganesan Rajeshwari Ganesan @rajeshwaridotg

Assistant Editor, DailyO

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