Ward Room
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"Medium Cool" Director Makes Film on NATO Protests

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"Medium Cool" Director Makes Film on NATO Protests

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Police arrest a protester, many affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement, during demonstration on the second day of the NATO summit.

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In 1968, filmmaker Haskell Wexler was in Chicago for the Democratic National Convention. His footage of the riots in Grant Park made it into the movie Medium Cool, an influential blend of fictional storytelling and documentary footage which has been preserved by the National Film Registry.

Last year, Wexler, who is now 91 years old, returned to Chicago to make a documentary about the demonstrations outside the NATO Summit. The trailer for Four Days In Chicago has just been released and, well, it doesn’t look like another Medium Cool.
 
For one thing, the NATO summit simply was not as historically important as the 1968 convention. For another, President Obama cut the legs out from under the protest movement by moving the G-8 summit -- its real antagonist -- to Camp David.

Wexler got some footage of cops beating protesters with wooden stakes. It appears to have been taken near the corner of Michigan and Cermak, where demonstrators tried to provoke a confrontation by surging against the police line. Mostly, Wexler has film of people for whom protest is a way of life -- the Occupy movement, the Black Bloc -- marching down Michigan Avenue, chanting, “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, NATO has got to go!”

 
Nonetheless, the movie looks worthwhile, because it features a member of Occupy Chicago referring to the mayor as “Mayor 1% Emanuel” -- a nickname coined by Ward Room. That clip should be preserved in the National Film Registry.
 
 

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