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That Riot in the Park

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 20, 2006 6:19PM

Quick: how many more days 'til the Oscars? Frankly, we don't care. However the Sundance Film Festival opens on January 18, an event which we've always daydreamed about but haven't been able to attend. This year's opener will bring a bit of Chicago to the usually-sleepy ski town of Park City, Utah: the documentary Chicago 10, directed by Brett Morgen. It chronicles the anti-war protests which accompanied the 1968 Democratic Convention and the subsequent trial of the "Chicago 8." The film's title refers to the eight defendants and their lawyers.

"It seems fitting to me that a film about the importance of taking a stand should launch" the festival, said Morgen. It's only the second time that Sundance has opened with a documentary (Stacy Peralta's surfer flick Riding Giants opened the 2004 edition), but in an atmosphere which has become increasingly political, it isn't a surprise.

2006_20welcomedemocratscrop2.jpgAn earlier film classic, Medium Cool, directed by Haskel Wexler and starring Robert Forster, used actual footage of the rioting to enhance a story about journalistic ethics. It's a must-see for its fascinating look at late '60s Chicago. The story of the convention is a juicy one and certainly warrants re-examination. Even though the film itself is unlikely to go into wide release until after the mayoral election, we can't imagine that the current Mayor Daley is all that pleased to have his father's political nadir under the microscope again. When the film comes to Chicago, we'll be watching to see what footage it includes of the elder Daley, who uttered the famous line in the aftermath of the rioting "The policeman isn't there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder."

Photo of National Guardsmen outside the Michigan Avenue Hilton from The Whole World Is Watching: Chicago 1968 by Janet Heettner.