DATE February 27, 2008 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Brett Morgen, writer and director of the documentary
"Chicago 10," on the events it's based on and making the film
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
"A police state" is how Walter Cronkite described Chicago in 1968 when the
Democratic convention was about to begin there. Anti-war demonstrators had
gathered in Chicago's Lincoln Park. Mayor Daley issued a curfew and had
denied the protesters a permit to sleep in the park. When demonstrators
decided to violate the curfew, the police responded by charging into them.
This led to several days of confrontations, during which police tear gassed
demonstrators and beat them with billy clubs. The government blamed eight
leaders of the anti-war movement, who were indicted on charges of conspiracy
to incite riot.
My guest, Brett Morgen, has directed a new film called "Chicago 10" about the
conspiracy trial. It uses archival footage from many sources and recreates
the trial through animation using the voices of such actors as Roy Scheider,
Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber and Hank Azaria. Cameras were not allowed into
the trial, but Morgen discovered an audiotape and he's brought an excerpt with
him. We think this will be the first time it's ever been broadcast.
Here's an example of the fascinating archival footage he included in the film.
It's a montage of a meeting from a 196--it's a montage--I'm sorry, it's a
montage of a 1968 meeting of the protest organizers. You'll hear the voices
of Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Rennie Davis and Ed Sanders.
(Soundbite of audiotape)
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. TOM HAYDEN: We have to establish a network for the discussion and
preparation that takes into account the possibility that you might want, at
the time of the convention, a very great outpouring of protest, or the other
possibility that you might want protests to occur on a more moderate scale at
the convention than in other parts of the country.
Mr. ABBIE HOFFMAN: We believe that politics is the way you live your life,
not who you support. It's not in terms of rallies or speeches or political
programs. It's in terms of images and in terms of transforming people's
Mr. RENNIE DAVIS: We are coming to Chicago at the time of the Democratic
National Convention not to disrupt the convention, not to confront the police,
National Guard troops or men in the United States Army, but to challenge the
policies of militarization that have been felt so strongly and brutally in
Mr. ED SANDERS: We're going to invest our time, our semen, our love vectors,
our intellect in America, and we're not going to allow our country to become
one of the fabled damned of nations to join the Mayan ruins and all the other
violent civilizations that have been snuffed.
(End of soundbite)
GROSS: Brett Morgen, welcome to FRESH AIR. People know of the Chicago Seven
trial. Your movie is called "Chicago 10." Why have you called it that?
Mr. BRETT MORGEN: Well, you know, it was originally the trial of the Chicago
Eight, and a few months into the case Bobby Seale was severed and it became
then known as the Chicago Seven, but I came across a quote from Jerry Rubin at
some point in which he said, `Anyone who calls us the Chicago Seven is a
racist because you're not acknowledging the presence of Bobby Seale, so call
us the Chicago Eight. But really you should call us the Chicago 10 because
our two attorneys, Len Weinglass and Bill Kunstler, went down with us.'
GROSS: And they were sentenced to contempt, the two lawyers.
Mr. MORGEN: They were. Kunstler was sentenced to four and a half years of
contempt. I think Weinglass got one and a half. And ultimately the movie is
really about appropriating this time period and rendering it as something new
so we decided to rebrand it as the "Chicago 10."
GROSS: Now, before we talk more about how you've made your movie, let's just
talk a little bit more about the event itself for anybody who doesn't remember
it well or wasn't alive at the time. The demonstration in Lincoln Park at the
time of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, it was more than just a
demonstration. Abbie Hoffman, one of the organizers, described it as total
theater, a festival of life. Just talk a little bit about what the intentions
were of the organizers.
Mr. MORGEN: Well, this was one of the problems with the conspiracy trial in
which the government tried to suggest that there was a singular motivation
behind the movement. There were a number of different groups that wanted to
protest in Chicago, and they wanted to exercise their constitutional right to
assemble and protest the convention that was happening in the amphitheater.
Basically, as early as March of '68, these various organizations approached
the city for permits, and Daley, from the get-go, refused to give anyone
permits to protest. I think his feeling was he was using the convention as a
way to showcase the city. He had spent a great deal of time and money sort of
in these beautification efforts, and I think, in his mind, the protesters
would sort of pollute and dirty that image. So no matter what they did, he
refused to allow them any permit.
And sometime during this process, I think it was in April, after Dr. King was
assassinated and they had the riots, Mayor Daley gave the famous "shoot to
kill" order, you know, in which he basically told the assembled media that he
was ordering the police to shoot and kill anyone who was involved in any
larceny or rioting. And that was kind of an effort to scare the protesters
from coming to Chicago and in effect, it did. But ultimately there were two
main groups that we focus on in the film, the Yippies and the Mobilization.
The Mobilization, which was fronted by Rennie Davis, Tom Hayden and David
Dellinger, wanted to do more of a traditional protest in the parks of Chicago.
The Yippies, on the other hand, wanted to create a festival of life, as they
put it, a celebration of life in the shadows of the convention of death, and
what they had envisioned was a three-day sort of Woodstock festival, if you
will, with bands like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles and a sort of merging
of the hippy countercultural movement with the new left.
GROSS: Well, the police confronted the demonstrators in the park. They
charged them. They tear gassed them. They beat them. And tell us what the
charges were at the Chicago Seven trial.
Mr. MORGEN: Right. So after...
GROSS: Chicago Eight.
Mr. MORGEN: After being, you know--the riots in Chicago--you know, we can't
even really call them riots because I think the proper terminology is they
were police riots. It was really the police going berserk, and for five days
they senselessly attacked the demonstrators in a manner that was as vicious
as, in my mind, the Rodney King beatings, just on a massive scale. So three
months after the convention, Nixon won office and one of the first things that
John Mitchell did was indict the leaders of the anti-war movement for
conspiracy with crossing state lines with the intent to start a riot. This
was, ironically, a new law that was part of the Civil Rights Act. The Chicago
Eight are the only people who've ever been tried under the Civil Rights Act,
and--were the first people ever tried under it and the only people ever tried
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Brett Morgen. His new movie is
called the "Chicago 10" and it's about the demonstrations in Chicago during
the Democratic National Convention and the conspiracy trial, the Chicago Eight
trial that followed it.
Your movie is not told with interviews. There aren't witnesses describing
what happened. Your movie is made with a combination of footage shot on the
scene at the time and animation of the actual trial. And why did you turn to
animation of the actual trial?
Mr. MORGEN: Well, the film takes a very Yippie-centric view of history, and
firstly, the reason we didn't do interviews is a number of the participants
have since died, and I didn't feel that it was right to allow the surviving
members to own this story just by virtue of the fact that they were fortunate
enough to have survived to this point. And I also didn't want this to be a...
GROSS: Yeah, for instance, there'd be--Abbie Hoffman is dead, Jerry Rubin is
dead, so two of the key people would not have their voices represented.
Mr. MORGEN: Bill Kunstler, Dave Dellinger, Judge Hoffman, yeah, Thomas
Foran, so that was one. The other thing is I didn't want this to be a film
about aging boomers looking back on their lives. I wanted the audience to see
the participants as they were at the time, as 20-year-olds and kids in their
GROSS: So, OK. And then the trial itself you do through animation. There
were no cameras in the courtroom so you have no documentary footage of the
Mr. MORGEN: Correct. And for a while I was trying to figure out how to
present the trial, and I came across a quote from Jerry Rubin which described
the trial as a cartoon show, and the proverbial light bulb went off in my head
and I said, `That's perfect.' This trial was like a circus. I mean, it was
very over the top and animated to begin with so it seamed like that would be
the perfect style to represent it.
GROSS: My guest is Brett Morgen. He directed the new film "Chicago 10." More
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: My guest is Brett Morgen. His new documentary is called "Chicago 10."
Well, I want to give a sense of how you've managed to cast this, and we can't
show the animation itself, but we can hear what you've done. And you've sent
us a clip of what the actual trial sounded like. I have never heard what the
actual trial sounded like. It's kind of amazing to listen in. I didn't know
that there were audiotapes. Where did you get this audiotape from?
Mr. MORGEN: Well, during the course of our research--we spent three years
trying to collect every piece of media that existed on this subject, and that
took us pretty much all over the world. And we amassed I think over 1200
hours of film, 60 millimeter film, 500-plus hours of audio and 14,000
photographs. And at a archive house in Chicago we found some unlabeled tapes
that we put on, and they ended up being courtroom audio, which was shocking to
me because every person we spoke to basically said that they didn't exist. I
believe the court reporter had recorded these. People were speaking so
frenetically in the courtroom that it was, I think, hard for her to keep up
and so she started to record some of the events.
And it was a revelation to me because, after reading the 23,000-page
transcript and trying to imagine some of these voices, and particularly Judge
Hoffman. Obviously with Bill Kunstler and some of the other characters, there
was a ton of archival footage that I could look at to understand how they
spoke, and their reflection and diction.
GROSS: Did you have like the whole trial, or just like excerpts of it?
Mr. MORGEN: No, we had, you know, there were a number of reels, a lot of
which were a bit wobbly and difficult to understand, but we did have a good
chunk of the stuff that we were covering in the film. So it was a great tool
for us to use, particularly for Roy Scheider, who was playing Judge Hoffman.
GROSS: Well, I--this is really going to be interesting. We're going to play
an excerpt of your movie with actors portraying the people at the Chicago
Eight trial, and then we're going to hear the tape from the actual trial. So
let's start with the excerpt of your movie, and again this is an animated
excerpt. And this is the day of the National Vietnam moratorium, so right
before Judge Hoffman enters the court, Dave Dellinger, who's a pacifist and
was a leader of an anti-war group, gets up to--and he's one of the
defendants--he gets up to across the people in the court before the judge
enters, and he explains that the moratorium is a day to protest the
continuation of the war and to urge the withdrawal of US forces in Vietnam.
And he says that, in observance of the moratorium and to kind of get the sense
of the people who are dying senselessly in the war, he's going to read the
names of the people who have died in the war this week. So he starts reading
And at this point the court is called to order, Judge Hoffman comes in, and
then the prosecutor objects to Dellinger's little speech, and then Kunstler,
the defense attorney, objects to the prosecutor. We're going to pick it up as
Judge Hoffman has walked in and Dave Dellinger wants to continue speaking.
(Soundbite of "Chicago 10")
Mr. DYLAN BAKER: (As David Dellinger) Mr. Hoffman, we are observing the
Mr. ROY SCHEIDER: (As Judge Julius Hoffman) I am Judge Hoffman, sir.
Mr. BAKER: (As David Dellinger) I believe in equality, sir. So I prefer to
call people "mister" or by their first name.
Mr. SCHEIDER: (As Judge Julius Hoffman) You will sit down, sir.
Mr. BAKER: (As David Dellinger) Can I be heard, your honor?
Mr. NICK NOLTE: (As Thomas Foran) Your honor! I object to this man speaking
out in court!
Mr. BAKER: (As David Dellinger) We were just going to propose a moment of
Mr. SCHEIDER: (As Judge Julius Hoffman) You needn't object. I forbid him to
disrupt the proceedings.
Mr. LIEV SCHREIBER (As William Kunstler): Your honor, I want to object to
Mr. Foran's yelling in the presence of the jury. Your honor has
Mr. NOLTE: (As Thomas Foran) Your honor, this is outrageous! This man is a
mouthpiece. Look at him! He's wearing an armband of his client's. The
government protests his attitude and requests the court move to take notice of
Mr. SCHREIBER: (As William Kunstler) Your Honor, I think that the temper and
the expression on Mr. Foran's face speaks more than any picture could tell.
Mr. NOLTE: (As Thomas Foran) Of my contempt for Mr. Kunstler!
Mr. SCHEIDER: (As Judge Julius Hoffman) Mr. Kunstler...
Mr. SCHREIBER: (As William Kunstler) To call me a mouthpiece...
Mr. NOLTE: (As Thomas Foran) Jesus Christ.
Mr. SCHREIBER: (As William Kunstler) ...and for your honor not to open his
mouth and say that's not to be done in your court, I think violates the
sanctity of this court. That is a word your honor knows is contemptuous and
Mr. SCHEIDER: (As Judge Julius Hoffman) Ha! Don't tell me what I know.
Mr. SCHREIBER: (As William Kunstler) I want him admonished, your honor, and
I request you to do that.
Mr. SCHEIDER: (As Judge Julius Hoffman) I do not admonish the United States
attorney because he was properly representing his client. The United States
Mr. SCHREIBER: (As William Kunstler) To call another attorney a
Mr. SCHEIDER: (As Judge Julius Hoffman) You, a lawyer, permitting your
client to stand up in the presence of the jury and disrupt these proceedings,
I--I don't know how to characterize it.
Mr. SCHREIBER: (As William Kunstler) Your honor, we do not permit, or not
permit, our clients. They are free, independent human beings who have been
brought by the government to this courtroom...
Mr. SCHEIDER: (As Judge Julius Hoffman) That's right. They're free, but
they'll conform to the law and they'll conform to the direction of the court
Mr. SCHREIBER: (As William Kunstler) Are you turning down my request?
Mr. SCHEIDER: (As Judge Julius Hoffman) I not only turn it down, I ignore
Mr. SCHREIBER: (As William Kunstler) That speaks louder than words.
(End of soundbite)
GROSS: That's an excerpt of the new film, the "Chicago 10," made by my guest
Brett Morgen. And we heard Roy Scheider as Judge Hoffman. Who else did we
hear in that scene, Brett?
Mr. MORGEN: That was Nick Nolte as prosecutor Thomas Foran, Dylan Baker as
David Dellinger and Liev Schreiber as Bill Kunstler.
GROSS: Now, we're going to hear an excerpt of the actual trial, a real audio
recording made at the trial that you've brought with you, and before we hear
it, is there anything in particular you'd like us to listen for in it?
Mr. MORGEN: The judge is--I mean, two things to listen to. Thomas Foran
GROSS: The prosecutor.
Mr. MORGEN: The prosecutor and the way that he is just absolutely exploding
in the courtroom, and the inflection of Judge Hoffman's voice. It's a very
unique characteristic that Roy spent a lot of time trying to mimic.
GROSS: OK, so we're going to pick up this part of the reel tape with the
prosecutor objecting to Dave Dellinger's speaking about the Vietnam
(Soundbite of audio tape)
Mr. DAVID DELLINGER: (Unintelligible)...
Mr. THOMAS FORAN: Your honor! I object to this man's speaking out in court!
Judge JULIUS HOFFMAN: You needn't object. I forbid him to disrupt the
proceeding. I note for the record that his name is
Mr. DELLINGER: David Dellinger.
Judge HOFFMAN: You needn't finish my sentences for me, sir.
Mr. DELLINGER: (Unintelligible).
Judge HOFFMAN: I note for the record that the name of the man who has
attempted to disrupt the proceedings in this court is David D. Dellinger.
(Soundbite of coughing)
Judge HOFFMAN: And the record will clearly indicate that, Miss Reporter, and
I direct him and all the others not to repeat such occurrence.
Mr. WILLIAM KUNSTLER: Your honor, I just want to object to Mr. Foran
yelling in the presence of the jury. Your honor has admonished many counsel
many times on the defense side for yelling, but particularly when the jury was
halfway out the door.
Judge HOFFMAN: I didn't--I never used the word "yelling."
Mr. KUNSTLER: Raising your voice.
Judge HOFFMAN: That point--if a lawyer representing his client didn't protest
that sort of thing--that sort of thing, he'd be a mighty poor lawyer for his
Mr. KUNSTLER: But not in the presence of that jury, which was deliberately
done, your honor. The doorway...(unintelligible)...
Mr. THOMAS FORAN: Your Honor, this is outrageous! This man is a mouthpiece!
Look at him wearing the armband of his client. Your honor, any lawyer who
comes into a courtroom and has no respect for the court and acts in--in
conjunction with that kind of conduct before the court, your honor, the
government protests his attitude and would like to strike to move the court
move to make note of his conduct before this court.
Judge HOFFMAN: Note has been duly made on the record.
Mr. KUNSTLER: Your honor, I think that the temper and the tone of voice and
the expression on Mr. Foran's face speaks more than any picture could tell...
Judge HOFFMAN: Mr. Kunstler...
Mr. KUNSTLER: Wait a minute, your honor.
@ Mr. FORAN: (Unintelligible)...Mr. Kunstler, your honor.
Mr. KUNSTLER: To call me a mouthpiece and your honor not to open his mouth
and say that's not to be done in your court, I think violates the sanctity of
this court. That is a word that your honor knows is contemptuous and
Judge HOFFMAN: Ah, don't tell me what I know. You don't know.
Mr. KUNSTLER: Well, then, you tell me, your honor, if you haven't heard that
word in your court before.
Judge HOFFMAN: I might know...(unintelligible)...here....(unintelligible)...
Mr. KUNSTLER: Wearing an armband to mourn the dead, your honor, is no
disgrace to this country. I want him admonished, your honor. I request you
to do that. The word "mouthpiece" is a contemptuous term.
Judge HOFFMAN: Let the record show--did you say you wanted my--me...
Mr. KUNSTLER: No, I want you to admonish him.
Judge HOFFMAN: I do not admonish the United States attorney because he was
properly representing his client, the United States of America.
(End of soundbite)
GROSS: That's an excerpt of the actual Chicago Eight trial, a real audiotape
of the trial, and my guest, Brett Morgen, has just made a movie about the
trial. And he thinks this is the first time this tape has ever publicly been
Brett, what kind of revelation was it for you to actually hear real tape like
this as opposed to reading the transcripts or seeing dramatic reenactments
that have been made before?
Mr. MORGEN: I've heard Judge Hoffman's voice described as the voice of
death, but I think it's very--I never had heard a voice quite like it. I
mean, on one hand he's being condescending and patronizing to the defendants.
On the other hand, at points he sounds very feeble and weak. The defendants
would commonly refer to him as Mr. Magoo or Elmer Fudd, but I don't think
those descriptions do justice to that unique quality of that voice. So
hearing it, I think, was a huge bolt of inspiration for Scheider and myself.
I also think with Thomas Foran, I would have never, just from reading the
GROSS: Again, this is the prosecutor.
Mr. MORGEN: Correct, the prosecutor. I would have never guessed that he
would be screaming at the top of his lungs in the courtroom, but you can hear
how much the defendants have got underneath his skin.
But it's funny, you know, when we first premiered--the film was the opening
night film at the Sundance Film Festival last year, and a couple of the
critics, you know, took issue with the depiction of the courtroom, and they
would say it's completely over the top and one-sided or what have you and they
were obviously making that comment from a--I hate to say it--but a point of
ignorance because no one really, unless they were in the courtroom, had any
idea what those voices sounded like. And this is the thing about the trial,
is that it's so outrageous it's hard to believe it really happened. And these
characters were--you could not cast a story like this. I mean, the fact that
Judge Hoffman got assigned in that courtroom in the context of this history is
just, it's incredible.
GROSS: Brett Morgen's new documentary is called "Chicago 10." We'll talk more
about the trial and the film in the second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross,
and this is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Brett Morgen, director
of the new documentary "Chicago 10." It's about the Chicago Eight, or Seven,
conspiracy trial, in which leaders of the movement against the war in Vietnam
were charged with conspiracy to riot in Chicago in 1968, when Chicago was the
site of the Democratic National Convention. The movie uses archival footage
of police attacking demonstrators and of the events leading up to the
confrontations. The film uses animation to recreate excerpts of the trial.
No cameras were allowed in the courtroom, but Morgen did find an audiotape of
the trial, which we played an excerpt of just before the break.
You know, watching the movie, I remember the trial--not that I was there, but
I certainly remember coverage of it and how important it was and what a real
circus it was. Watching the movie, I was kind of surprised at my reaction.
Because although I think Judge Hoffman was so wrong for this case, he didn't
comprehend what was happening at all, he didn't comprehend how or why the
people who were on trial were playing him and trying to turn this into
political theater. And so all of his reactions were so kind of tone deaf to
what was happening...
Mr. MORGEN: Hm.
GROSS: ...and just kind of like feeding, like feeding the theater as opposed
to like getting control of the court. But there was a part of me that almost
felt for him because, like, what was he supposed to do? Like, everybody was
playing him. Everybody was trying to make it into political theater. And you
feel him, you know, like, trying to keep control of the court and being
clueless about how to do it.
Mr. MORGEN: Well, I will tell you that's a credit to Roy Scheider. When we
did the recordings with Roy, I was out in the Hamptons with him in a little
recording booth, and we would listen to the tapes and we'd do some lines. And
Roy would, you know, try to match the judge's inflections, but clearly brought
his own interpretation to the role. And I remember when I cut the dialogue, I
called him the next day and I said, `Listen, I think you might have played the
judge too nicely. And we should maybe go back and make it a little harsher
around the edges here and there.' And Roy said, you know, `I really respect
you as a director, but I'm going to have to tell you no, that this is how I
interpret the voice and this is how I think it should be played.' And I think
Roy was totally right and I think that he found a way to empathize with the
judge that came through in the film, and you do get the sense that, you know,
the judge has completely lost control, and by the end of the film even he--you
could get the sense that he wishes he was somewhere else.
But I will say, Terry, in all fairness that the defendants didn't march into
the courtroom, you know, thinking of this as a big piece of theater. I think
there was a lot of division amongst the defendants on how to approach the
case. But I think Abbie and Jerry's reactions to the judge and the fact that
they would often speak out in court had a lot to do with the way the judge
handled the case in the early days. And he was so biased against the, and
prejudiced against the defendants, I think that Judge Hoffman, who was, you
know, in his last days, saw the defendants as a disease that was polluting
America, and it was his moral obligation to cut the head off that snake, very
similar to Mayor Daley.
And in that sense, I always thought of this as a film as much about parenting
and generation gap as it was about cultural revolution. I grew up in a house
with a father who would say things like, you know, `As long as you're living
in my house, you live under my rules. When you're 18 you can do whatever you
want but you're going to look like me and dress like me and fit the part.' And
I just felt that Judge Hoffman and Mayor Daley refused to identify with the
youth and understand them. And, by the way, it goes both ways to a certain
extent. There was just a total communication breakdown in Chicago, and I
think it happened in the months leading up to the convention, and then was
very much mirrored by the experiences in that courtroom.
GROSS: I think like the most outrageous moment of the Chicago Eight trial,
which you depict in the animated part of your movie, is when--Bobby Seale is
being spoken of by the prosecutor, and he insists on representing himself, on
speaking for himself. His lawyer is sick and isn't there, and he is being
charged with things that he says he is innocent of and he wants to speak out.
The judge refuses to let him speak. Seale insists on speaking, so the judge
finally does the most outrageous thing a judge can do. He has Bobby Seale
bound and gagged and brought back into the courtroom. He tells a marshal to
take him out, the marshal bounds and gags him, brings him back, and it's, I
mean, this made news around the world. How did you think through depicting
that particular chapter of the trial in your animation?
Mr. MORGEN: Well, a number of things. One, Seale was severed from the case
about six weeks in, and one of the problems with the dramatizations I'd seen
of Chicago was, when you have Bobby Seale severed in the end of act one,
there's not a lot of place you can go with the story. And so one of the, I
think, great things my editor, Stuart Levy, brought to my attention, he said,
`What if we--why don't we use Bobby for the climax? Reconstruct the
chronology of the trial and intercut Bobby being silenced by the judge with
the protesters who are trying to march the Conrad Hilton, who are being
silenced by the police and being told they can't march. And in that context
it becomes more of a statement about freedom of speech than it does about the
inherent racism that was happening in that courtroom. One is not mutually
exclusive of the other, but certainly within the context that we present it in
the film, we were drawing parallels to what was happening outside the
GROSS: So tell us who you got to play Bobby Seale and why you chose him.
Mr. MORGEN: For Bobby Seale we reached out to Jeffrey Wright, and he had a
very difficult role. I mean, most of the--his character, he's gagged, and it
was a very uncomfortable recording session to that extent. I mean, one of the
things with all of the performers in the film is, we had no money to pay them
and so we tried to make the experience as convenient for them as possible. So
I would call their managers and say, `Listen, I just need about two or three
hours of your client's time, you know, would they be willing to do this for
us?' So Jeffrey walked into the room and, you know, we made some quick
introductions. He has a limited amount of time, and next thing you know, I'm
throwing him into one of the most dramatic moments anyone could play in a US
GROSS: So did you actually gag him?
Mr. MORGEN: I think that Jeffrey actually did it with his hand, with like a
fist in his mouth, you know, he would take his own--not my fist--he would take
his own fist and sort of put it in his mouth and make those sounds.
GROSS: Why don't we hear a scene from your animated recreation of a Bobby
Seale chapter of the trial with Jeffrey Wright as Bobby Seale.
(Soundbite of "Chicago 10")
Mr. JEFFREY WRIGHT: (As Bobby Seale) I want to request again, demand again,
that I be able to cross-examine the witness. Now, you have Benjamin Franklin
and George Washington sitting in pictures behind you and they were slave
owners. That's what they were. They owned slaves! And you act in the same
manner by denying me my constitutional right.
Mr. SCHEIDER: (As Judge Julius Hoffman) Young man, if you...
Mr. WRIGHT: (As Bobby Seale) Look, old man, you being exposed to the public
and to the world that you don't want to...
Mr. SCHEIDER: (As Judge Julius Hoffman) Have him sit down, Mr. Marshal.
Mr. WRIGHT: (As Bobby Seale) I want to defend myself! I have the right to
speak on behalf of my constitutional rights!
Mr. SCHEIDER: (As Judge Julius Hoffman) I--I didn't think I would ever live
to sit--to sit on the bench in a courtroom where George Washington was
assailed by a defendant and a judge was criticized for having his portrait on
Mr. WRIGHT: (As Bobby Seale) The law protects my right not to be
discriminated against. Why don't you recognize that?
Mr. SCHEIDER: (As Judge Julius Hoffman) Mr. Seale, do--do you want to stop?
Or do you want me to...
Mr. WRIGHT: (As Bobby Seale) You can't deny me the right! You can't deny me
my constitutional right!
Mr. SCHEIDER: (As Judge Julius Hoffman) Take that defendant in--into the
room, in there, and deal with him as he should be dealt with.
Mr. WRIGHT: (As Bobby Seale) I still want to be represented. I want to
represent myself! Let me go! I want to represent myself! It's my
constitutional right! I got a right! I got a right! I got a right!
(Sound of door being closed)
(End of soundbite)
GROSS: That's Jeffrey Wright as Bobby Seale in one of the animated scenes
from my guest Brett Morgen's new movie "Chicago 10," which is a movie about
the trial and the demonstrations that led to the trial.
So, of all the footage that you went through, the network news footage, the
alternative filmmaker's news footage, and you got access to Haskell Wexler's
footage that he shot for the movie "Medium Cool," what was the most shocking,
or just revelatory, moments that you saw?
Mr. MORGEN: It was really difficult to look at the footage of the beatings
in Chicago. Nothing really prepared me for it and, you know, even
experiencing that footage for the three years that we were working on the
film, I never became numb or immune to it, and I don't think that there was a
day when my editor and I wouldn't shed a tear in the edit room. I had not, in
my lifetime, seen anything close to it. I mean, it was absolutely shocking to
experience this footage and to actually see the unedited material, where you
can see sort of a cop approaching the camera man and hitting the camera man,
then you remember, my god, that's a journalist he's hitting, which happened
But probably the most powerful image for me in the film was the lady in pink,
Mary Kerr, who was a member of the British Parliament who came to Chicago as
an observer to observe our wonderful democracy at play. And she was sleeping
at the Conrad Hilton Hotel and apparently was--gas came into her room and so
she went downstairs to see what was going on. And I vividly remember she was
wearing this pink nightgown. And she walks onto the street, and the second
she enters the street, a cop comes up and maces her. And she continues to
move towards him, protesting. They manhandle her and try to throw her in the
back of a squad car. And as they're trying to push her in, she's singing "We
Shall Overcome." And this is this, you know, like I said, 65, 70-year-old
woman in her nightgown who was a absolutely innocent bystander who was
getting, you know, beat up viciously by the police, and that voice of hers,
singing at the top of her lungs "We Shall Overcome" was, I think, one of the
most endearing images of Chicago.
GROSS: How did you know what the back story was of that footage?
Mr. MORGEN: Through my research I read--and she testified at the trial, and
she talked specifically about those events that I just described, so we drew
the connection. I mean, there wasn't anyone else that really looked like her,
to be honest, in the archival footage. I mean, she really stood out as being
in her nightgown and being, I think, close to 70 years old, and watching the
police manhandle her was just vicious.
GROSS: My guest is Brett Morgen. He directed the new documentary "Chicago
10." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: My guest is Brett Morgen. His documentary "Chicago 10" is about the
Chicago Eight, or Seven, conspiracy trial, in which leaders of the anti-war
movement were charged with conspiracy to riot in Chicago when the 1968
Democratic convention was held there.
There were parts of the demonstration where demonstrators, as they were being
beaten by the police, shouted, "The whole world is watching," and did you
really get that feeling going through all this footage, like the impact that
it made for the world to to see this?
Mr. MORGEN: Well, it's an interesting question because what the world saw in
1968 is not what the world will see through my film. I watched all of...
GROSS: What do you mean?
Mr. MORGEN: Well, I watched all the broadcasts of the riots, and except for
the last one in front of the Conrad Hilton, you know, there was an electrical
strike in Chicago that week so there was very limited video remote feeds going
on. And so in general what the networks would do is they would send one
camera down to a riot to cover it. And then four hours later they would air
maybe 45 seconds up to two minutes of unedited footage from one perspective.
So the march of the Conrad Hilton at the end was culled from over 50 visual
sources and over 20 audio sources. And so the events that we're depicting
them are really not what the world saw in 1968.
What's shocking to audiences when I speak with them about the film is that 70
percent of America at the time supported Mayor Daley, and the only thing I
could explain to them is, you know, America was presented with a specific
image of these riots, and it really took 40 years for us to come around and
GROSS: Through the trial segments of the interview, you have Abbie Hoffman
being interviewed by phone by Bob Fass, who was a famous New York talk show
host on the Pacifica radio station in New York, WBAI. Are you using actual
tapes of the broadcast for that, or are those reenactments?
Mr. MORGEN: I am. And just for the record, Bob is still on the air at WBAI
on Thursday nights, which is amazing. He's been doing it for, I think,
started in '60, '61. Bob was a founder of Yippie with Abbie, and was one of
Abbie's closest friends, and when people wanted to know what was happening,
they would listen to Bob Fass' show. And in 1968, a few months before the
convention in Chicago, the Yippies staged an event called the Grand Central
Yip-in, and this really was orchestrated by Bob Fass. I mean, Bob would get
on the air, tell people, `Tomorrow we're going to meet at Grand Central
Station,' and then broadcast live during the riots at the Grand Central
Station--or the sit-in at the Grand Central Station. It was totally
But almost every night during the trial, Abbie would call Bob--now, you got to
remember, Bob's show's on from midnight to 5 AM. So this was the middle of
the night for Abbie. He had been, you know, he would be up in the courtroom
at 8 AM. So by the time Abbie got on the phone with Bob, he was rather
exhausted, and I think he would forget that he was speaking to a live radio
audience, and he would just act as if he was just speaking to his good buddy,
sort of telling him what was going on.
But one of the great things about Abbie is he had incredible sense of humor,
and even at 3 in the morning, as beat down as he was from Judge Hoffman and
the proceedings, his humor would always penetrate and cut through. And
listening to those recordings was another amazing find because I was able to
put on headphones and feel as if, you know, I was listening in on these rather
intimate conversations between Bob and Abby.
GROSS: Well, let's hear an excerpt of one of those conversations between Bob
Fass and Abbie Hoffman.
(Soundbite of "Chicago 10")
Mr. BOB FASS: Hi, Abbie.
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. HOFFMAN: Robert.
Mr. FASS: Hi.
Mr. HOFFMAN: It's a chilly night here.
Mr. FASS: Yeah?
Mr. HOFFMAN: Yeah. How you doing? I...
Mr. FASS: OK. How was it in court today?
Mr. HOFFMAN: Oh, it was unbelievable. I mean...(unintelligible)...a jewel.
The judge, he's 74 years old. He was alive at the first and second Balkan
Wars. I think he just missed going on the Titanic. Yeah, I think he's even
beyond the generation gap.
Mr. FASS: Are you sure you're not related to him?
Mr. HOFFMAN: No, no.
Mr. FASS: You sure? The name...
Mr. HOFFMAN: I bought him a present, though.
Mr. FASS: What?
Mr. HOFFMAN: I heard he had tired blood, and I bought him a year's supply of
Mr. FASS: Do you really think he'd take a thing like that kindly, Abbie,
giving him Geritol?
Mr. HOFFMAN: Well, he has--he has a bit of a sense of humor.
Mr. FASS: He might think of it as an attempt to bribe him.
Mr. HOFFMAN: No. He thought...
Mr. FASS: I think you probably are relatives in some distant way, Abbie.
Mr. HOFFMAN: Some distant way, yeah.
Mr. FASS: Yeah.
Mr. HOFFMAN: In the great conspiracy, we're all sort of relatives.
(End of soundbite)
GROSS: That's an excerpt of a real broadcast between Abbie Hoffman and WBAI
radio host Bob Fass, recorded during the Chicago Eight conspiracy trial. And
it's featured in the movie "Chicago 10," which was made by my guest, Brett
So, Brett, having made your movie, the "Chicago 10," how do you see the whole
trial, and the events leading up to it, differently than you did before you
MORGEN: You know, Terry, I didn't have much knowledge of the trial before I
started so I was on a journey of discovery as I made this film, and it was
kind of refreshing because I was born in October of '68 and I was able to
experience these subjects free of what eventually became of them, and I was
able to separate myself from that, which is very different than, you
know--most people can't separate what was happening in '69 to the ultimate
fate of those subjects. You know, Jerry Rubin became a quote unquote
"yuppie." One of the defendants ended up selling life insurance. Abbie
Hoffman sort of never was quite as significant a character as he was at that
The movie's set in '68, but I never though I was making a film about 1968. I
thought I was making a film about today and appropriating the iconography and
the imagery from the '60s and these sources from the '60s to tell a story that
was ultimately about the time I'm living in and about the war that I'm living
through. Very similar in a way to what Baz Luhrmann was doing in "Romeo +
Juliet," which is why I emphatically say this isn't a history lesson.
I think the lesson for me, what the film is ultimately trying to do, is tell
the audience, or put a mirror up to the audience and challenge them to say, to
ask them, `how far are you willing to go?' And the answer--we're not
suggesting that people need to get beat over the heads to make a statement.
Ultimately what the film tells you is that each person needs to make that
decision for themselves, and all we're doing is asking them to take a moment
to ask, `Am I doing enough?'
GROSS: Well, Brett Morgen, thanks so much for talking with us.
Mr. MORGEN: Thank you, Terry.
GROSS: Brett Morgen directed the new documentary, "Chicago 10."
Coming up, Ken Tucker reviews the debut album by the band Vampire Weekend.
This is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: Ken Tucker on the self-titled debut album from Vampire
TERRY GROSS, host:
The self-titled debut album by the band Vampire Weekend attracted a lot of
attention on the Internet and in the media long before its January 29th
digital release on iTunes. The Manhattan-based band emphasizes the contrast
between its preppy onstage look and its Afro-pop melodies. Rock critic Ken
Tucker says the group is an example of the accelerated pace of being
considered cool one minute and facing a backlash the next.
(Soundbite of "One (Blake's Got a New Face)")
Mr. EZRA KOENIG: (Singing) Occident
Out on the weekend
That's the way
That we relax
Tastes like Darjeeling
But she's too cute to even ask
Blake's got a new face
Blake's got a new face
Blake's got a new face...
(End of soundbite)
Mr. KEN TUCKER: The annals of Ivy League, or prep school rock 'n' roll
stretch back at least as far as Steely Dan, whose founders, Donald Fagen and
Walter Becker, first teamed up while attending Bard in the late '60s, and one
of whose early incarnations included comedian Chevy Chase on drums. Since
then, singer-songwriters from James Taylor to Loudon Wainwright III, to
Loudon's son Rufus have all added flourishes of entitlement, sometimes as
self-deprecating satire, more often blithely as their just desserts.
Vampire Weekend are four Columbia University grads who take the stage in
Brooks Brothers shirts and top siders and sing about Cape Cod weekends and
dressing in, quote, "bleeding madras." They have become simultaneously
Manhattan's most acclaimed and most overhyped new band.
(Soundbite of "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa")
Mr. KOENIG: (Singing) As a young girl
With your mother
On a sandy lawn
As a sophomore
And the linens
You're sitting on
Is your bed made?
(End of soundbite)
Mr. TUCKER: If that Vampire Weekend song reminded you of Paul Simon's
"Graceland," as well as decades of what's become known as world music, well,
these Vampires have leeched ideas from African pop music, Simon's brilliant
use of it, and name check another world music traveler, Peter Gabriel, in that
song. The boys in Vampire Weekend are not, in other words, trying to hide
anything or pass as authentic. I think it's this quality of clever
transparency that's proven so charming and disarming to their young New York
(Soundbite of "A-Punk")
Mr. KOENIG: (Singing) Johanna drove slowly into the city
The Hudson River all filled with snow
She spied the ring on his honor's finger
Oh oh oh
A thousand years in one piece of silver
She took it from his lily-white hand
Showed no fear--she'd seen the thing
In the Young Man's wing at Sloan-Kettering
(End of soundbite)
Mr. TUCKER: Mixing Afro-pop guitar lines with a clipped, lurching reggae-ska
beat on that song, "A-Punk," lead singer Ezra Koenig vocalizes plaintively.
He's as upfront white bread a cultural explorer as the band's other obvious
influence, David Byrne and Talking Heads.
But rattling off all their influences doesn't give Vampire Weekend credit for
what they bring to the music, which is a pleasing tension between the melodies
and their lyrics. The song "Oxford Comma" is indeed a brief consideration of
grammar; the title is a variation on what you may have been taught as the
serial comma. Another tune, "Mansard Roof," takes an architectural term to
summon up memories of what went on inside old university buildings.
(Soundbite of "Mansard Roof")
Mr. KOENIG: (Singing) I see a mansard roof through the trees
I see a salty message written in the eaves
The ground beneath my feet
The hot garbage and concrete
And now the tops of buildings, I can see them, too
I see a mansard roof through the trees
I see a salty message written in the eaves
The ground beneath my feet
The hot garbage and concrete
And now the tops of buildings, I can see them, too
(End of soundbite)
Mr. TUCKER: In the new cycle of exposure, the band posted a number of the
songs on its MySpace page and built a strong following for its New York-area
performances. This has led to The New York Times coverage with loving
descriptions of their clothes and courtly manners, which in turn, given the
speed of pop culture these days, has already led to a backlash, a "they're not
so hot" reaction.
But that's always what happens when a band cherished by a cult gets mass
exposure. The original fans feel as though their secret has been stolen and
don't like being associated with the rabble. And being above the rabble is
both Vampire Weekend's least attractive trait and their greatest subject. I
wouldn't want to be planning their next career move. It's going to be tricky.
GROSS: Ken Tucker is editor at large at Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed
the debut album by Vampire Weekend.
You can download podcasts of our show on our Web site, freshair.npr.org.
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.