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Why Mangrove succeeds where The Trial of the Chicago 7 fails | Film

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It’s no coincidence that two courtroom dramas such as Steve McQueen’s Mangrove and Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 should have come out around the same time – both films owe something to a climate of radical protest and counterculture in reaction to Donald Trump’s America and the Tory Britain of the Windrush and Grenfell scandals. Yet the parallels between the two films feel strangely pert, and (to the detriment of The Trial of the Chicago 7) the differences between them are illuminating about the different politics on display.

Sorkin’s film centres on eight men (the Chicago 7 themselves, plus the Black Panther party co-founder Bobby Seale) charged, among other things, with incitement to riot in 1968. McQueen’s deals with nine Black activists in west London, charged with affray and incitement to riot, a mere three years later – several of whom, including Darcus Howe and Altheia Jones-LeCointe, were leading figures in the UK chapter of the Black Panthers. In both situations, activists were pitted against a punitive judicial system and a cantankerous, racist judge; and both cases became causes célèbres as the trials stretched on and on.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale in The Trial of the Chicago 7.



Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale in The Trial of the Chicago 7. Photograph: Niko Tavernise/AP

Sorkin can’t get to the trial soon enough: after some perfunctory exposition, his film arrives at the courthouse in its 13th minute, whereas it takes Steve McQueen nearly an hour before his protagonists face a jury. This is because Sorkin loves a courtroom drama: his movie revels in legalese and repartee, with every other event in the film taking a backseat to the case itself. Many of the events the film centres on are presented in flashback; the first time Bobby Seale is even seen is in court. This means the characters are presented as legal subjects foremost – a perspective that aligns Sorkin with the state. Conversely McQueen spends time with his characters, taking time and sometimes joy in depicting a whole community, a place for gathering, and the anti-police protest itself. Not for nothing is the film called Mangrove (after the Mangrove restaurant, a hub for Notting Hill’s Black community) and not The Trial of the Mangrove 9. In other words, McQueen’s portrayal of his protagonists is fully in keeping with their outsider status: by the time they arrive in court, the institution feels brutal and alien.

Sorkin’s blinkered politics come out in his film’s catastrophic understanding of racial injustice. An early scene finds Seale’s Black Panther colleague Fred Hampton taking the Chicago 7 to task for drinking coffee in comfort between court sessions, while Seale is taken to jail. Indeed, but what of Sorkin’s camera? Does he bother to film Seale in jail? No. In the film’s most heinous lapse, Sorkin depicts Seale gagged and shackled in court, before the intervention of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s prosecuting lawyer, Richard Schultz, ensures that Seale is freed. This horrific episode takes mere minutes in the film, while in reality Seale was bound in court for days, his jaw clamped shut, before he was released. The implication in Sorkin’s film is that attacking a Black defendant is somehow un-American; and Seale’s rescue by a white prosecuting lawyer again confers credence and respectability on hostile institutions.

McQueen is more canny, and his perspective is firmly aligned with his subjects, particularly in a bravura sequence that parallels Seale’s treatment, when Darcus Howe and Frank Crichlow, the owner of the Mangrove, are brutalised by court officials. McQueen clearly depicts this violence, and in the aftermath of the aggression he dwells on Crichlow, alone in his cell, and on Crichlow’s cries of rage and despair. This sequence is long and pointed; it takes the depiction of racial violence, of racial injustice, beyond a simplistic setup of for-and-against, of perpetrator and victim. McQueen shows a man browbeaten to the very edge of his own humanity, baring his soul.

Shaun Parkes as Frank Crichlow in Mangrove.



Shaun Parkes as Frank Crichlow in Mangrove. Photograph: Des Willie/AP

Mangrove isn’t above the odd bit of courtroom drama – Howe and Jones-LeCointe, representing themselves, are shown getting the better of officials in two righteous scenes; but again, McQueen steers clear of triumphalism. Conversely, Tom Hayden’s big gotcha in The Trial of the Chicago 7 closes the film in a veritable orgy of dignified tears, audience applause and a score of swelling strings. When the not-guilty verdicts are finally read out in Mangrove, McQueen keeps his camera fixed on Crichlow, shutting out the court around him – the judge asking for verdicts, the jury giving them, the audience reacting, are all just sounds, as we observe a man weeping. McQueen’s unerring focus again keeps his characters’ humanity front and centre.

Mangrove’s film-making shows up the limits, cliches and hollowness of the courtroom drama in general, while a flimsy exemplar of it such as The Trial of the Chicago 7 only underscores McQueen’s rigour. His project upends conventions, the better to carve out space for his subjects to live in.


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Zendaya Shared The Euphoria Christmas Episode Poster

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December 7 can’t come soon enough.

On December 7, HBO is airing the first of two special Euphoria episodes that take place in between the show’s sensational first season and the forthcoming second batch of episodes. Needless to say, we’re stoked.

To whet our appetites just a little while longer, Zendaya shared a teaser poster for the first episode, which — despite the “Part 1: Rue” subtitle on the poster — is titled “Trouble Don’t Last Always.”


@Zendaya / Twitter / Via Twitter: @Zendaya

Of course, we already knew that this first episode would focus on Rue, as a press release had previously stated that it would pick up after the “aftermath of being left by Jules at the train station and relapsing.”

For this installment, the show will “[follow] Rue as she celebrates Christmas.”

We don’t know what the second special episode is about yet, but there’s been hints: When Zendaya first announced the new eps, she did so with a picture of co-star Hunter Schafer’s eye.

Could the second episode be about Jules? Only time will tell.

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Disney Movies In Chronological Order Quiz

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Here’s how this works: Below are 15 iconic animated Disney movies, your job is to click on them in chronological order of when they were released in theaters, from oldest to most recent!

Since this isn’t a COMPLETE list of all Disney movies from the past 80-ish years, there will be some missing. Just click on the next movie that hit theaters!


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Funny Baby Yoda Tweets You’ll Laugh It Even If You Haven’t Seen Star Wars

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Even if you haven’t watched The Mandalorian — or ANY Star Wars movies/shows for that matter — you’ve probably seen all the Baby Yoda memes. And, quite frankly, some are so funny they require zero knowledge of Star Wars. Here’s some of the best…enjoy!

By the way, if you laughed at any of these, you should give these Twitter users a follow to make your timeline a funnier place!


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