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“Inside the bar, it’s like the ‘60s never happened. Outside the bar, the ‘60s were being performed for anyone who looked out of the window.”

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is being regarded as a true reflection not just of the past, but of the present state of America as well. I doubt if anything could have been truer. Watching the entire 2 h 10 m long run of the movie was frustrating, not because of any lapses in the performances, narration or any artistic aspect of it – it was frustrating to see the system be depicted without false deviations; to see it laid out bare as an apathetic and discriminatory entity that sees through a majoritarian, autocratic lens.

For anyone who has closely watched Donald Trump or others on the right choose their words for the BLM Movement or for those who critique the administration, the scenes that unfold in The Trial do not seem far away from reality. These events may have happened in the 1960s but the political hostility has not become extinct even today. The racial and cultural prejudice that existed back then hasn’t gone under either. The morose judge with his all-prevailing monstrosity of an air around him, the men shouting orders at and attempting to sexually assault a young woman who dared step out and march against the government, the system’s refusal to grant a fair representation and trial to an African American man - the scenes read together as a realistic depiction of how life hasn’t transformed since the Vietnam war and the cultural revolution as we know it.

In this bubble of activity, as Hoffman – the defendant, not the judge – says in the movie, “We are not going to jail for what we did, we are going to jail for who we are.” Our identities, more than our actions, determine how we are perceived and put on trial, be it in the judiciary or in the general perception of crowds. And here, plenty would be happy to keep their mouths shut and watch as injustice becomes the norm, played out in plain daylight. They would watch without protest as others get crucified. It perhaps is coincidental that the movie released and is gaining momentum at the time of an appointment to the Federal Supreme Court. To be reminded of yesterday, to put our own lives in the right context, would be a wise thing to do now. Alas, it’s brevity, remorse, and respect – as defined by the authorities – that make us ‘safe’, qualified for ‘partiality’, the doe-eyed obedient citizens, and lock our freedom of expression away, all the same. It’s a sword that masks itself with cordial persuasion and imparts a feeling that you can escape the brutality of what comes onto you if a wild idea of protest ever strikes. It’s better to abide by the norms than question it, the system asserts.

The movie, a depiction of a real-life event (even drawing lines straight from the actual courtroom exchanges), might as well be a dystopian allusion to history repeating itself. It even takes you back to Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Marshall, or 12 Angry Men – all of these centre around prejudice, injustice, and the disgustful conclusions that establishments dive into. But, it’s reminiscent of today than any other literary work or theatrical display, because of the resemblance in political atmosphere and the coming together of varied groups for a common cause of opposing hate and division. It makes you recall Kenosha; it makes you recall Minneapolis, Louisville, and Ferguson, among others.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 couldn’t have come at a better time because we all needed a reminder to urge for informed choice.



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