Who's in It:
Arlo Guthrie, Tony Shalhoub, John Turturro, Howard Zinn, Studs Terkel
The Basics: Sacco and Vanzetti were two Italian immigrants and anarchists who, in the early 1920s, were convicted of murder and executed. This documentary lays out how they were convicted on flimsy evidence, possibly framed and definitely hated, just reflexively, because they were immigrants and anarchists. Oh, yeah, and there was a confession from another guy after the verdict, but no one would believe him. So, yeah, sure, fair trial.
What's the Deal? You don't have to be the brainiest person in the world to see the parallels between the S.&V. situation and how things are in the United States right now. They had World War I and crazed nationalism; we have the War on Terror and the War in Iraq and a lot of crazed nationalism. They had anti-immigrant (especially anti-Italian) sentiment; we have anti-immigrant (especially anti-Muslim) sentiment. They arrested and detained people without cause; we do that, too. In other words, because we didn't learn from the mistakes of history, we can't exactly look back at this trial and be proud of how much more enlightened we are.
Cultural Work That Came Out of the Trial: Novels by Upton Sinclair and Katherine Anne Porter, music from Woody Guthrie and two feature films, Sacco e Vanzetti and Winterset.
Trial It Kicked the Butt of in Terms of Public Fascination: O.J.'s. They declared martial law in Boston on the day of the pair's execution. Of course, neither of those resulted in huge riots like the Rodney King trial, so really that one wins, hands down.
Want to Read More About Crazy Stuff in American History That Public School Textbooks Censor, Eliminate or Downplay? Check out Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. He's also in this movie.