In 1970, two friends and I, aided by dozens of others, immersed ourselves in the transcript of that trial. Days after it ended, our efforts culminated in "The Tales of Hoffman
," a bestseller whose title referred to both the judge and one of the most famous defendants, Abbie Hoffman, and which reduced around 22,000 pages of the words of the trial participants into a paperback.
Now, 50 years later, I would have the opportunity to compare a movie by one of the greatest screenwriters of all time to reality. And our excitement only grew when Simon & Schuster reissued our book -- with a foreword by Sorkin -- under the title "The Trial of the Chicago 7: The Official Transcript
Perhaps a movie was inevitable, because the antics in the courtroom were cinematic from the start. Given that, I was not surprised that Sorkin's film
, which debuted on Netflix on October 16, is terrific, with an amazing script, crisp directing and a dazzling cast.
America today confronts issues eerily similar to the late 1960s and early 1970s. An egotistical president who believes he is above the law. An attorney general wielding the Justice Department as a partisan force. Police wading into crowds of peaceful protesters, shoving, clubbing and arresting them to stifle dissent. Systemic racism targeting Black Americans. A polarized country. The question is: what has America learned, if anything
, between then and now?
It's a question Sorkin is also clearly asking with his varying artistic treatment of historical events in the film. What stood out most to me are its flashbacks to the streets of Chicago in August 1968, when thousands of activists gathered in Grant Park to protest the Vietnam War and the Democratic National Convention. The flashbacks include black and white footage from the 1960s as well as recreations. Scenes of Lyndon Johnson escalating the Vietnam War in archival footage, and actors playing police wading into crowds of protesters are juxtaposed against recordings of the actual po