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I have lived in Madison, WI the majority of my life and my father was a University policeman during the latter part of the anti-war protests. Who knows, maybe he was even pictured in the film - it's difficult to tell as the police are most often shown in their riot gear. Over the years he has related some of his experiences during that time. He attended the UW during the early 60's and wasn't much older than the students involved in what he described as chaotic and sometimes scary encounters. As a result of this, I have always been very interested in the anti-war movement nationally and especially on the UW campus. This film gives me a detailed perspective of the city I lived in during my childhood and shows me how much the Madison of today has been influenced by those events. On a broader level the film demonstrates how Madison was a microcosm (albeit a somewhat extreme example for it's relatively small size) of the national political climate. It all at once makes me wish I had been there but also thankful that I wasn't which I think may be indicative of the schizophrenic nature of our country at that time. It's a retrospective worth watching not just for its point of view but also as a historical document. It's a thoroughly informative film which has relevance today both because of the long shadows these events have cast ever since but also given the political issues being raised today over the war in Iraq. Sit back, watch, enjoy and surprise yourself by finding out what you never knew about a seemingly well-documented and recent period of our history.
There are a number of films out on the anti-war movement. Some, like the recent 'Weather Underground' never really explain the historical context or the protester's politics, but just stay at the surface of personality and sensational subject matter. Others, like Berkeley in the Sixties, take a completely nostalgic view, embalming leftist politics as something cool boomers did in a now inaccessible past when they were crazy kids. The War at Home, though fills in the background, takes the politics seriously, and imagines that it might be actually worth something to the viewer. While the film is focused on events in Madison, WI, it's interest is by no means limited to folks with experience of that time or place. It's very effective microcosm of the larger movement. While the film has a fairly conventional talking-head-and-archival-clip form, it's well made and engaging. It also has no pretense to 'objectivity,' which is a good thing. A number of observers trace the decline of the anti-war movement to a turn towards violence that alienated more moderate folks who were beginning to question the war after Tet. the first signal event in this supposed turn toward the dark side was a bombing on the University of Wisconsin campus, which becomes the central event in this film. A grad student in science was killed in the blast, and there was great hue and cry that anyone would set off a bomb amidst the seat of higher learning. However, rather than simply casting the bombers as villains, the film seeks to understand their actions, and ultimately sympathizes with them. Rarely do we ever see this -- political radicalism treated as human and comprehensible -- and for presenting the side of the argument we never hear otherwise, The War at Home is a valuable and all too rare document.
This is an excellent film for those who are interested in the 60s war resistance movement or who lived in the Madison, WI area during that time. It uses a great combination of interviews with the leaders, both student and other, of the time, and archival footage. A good reminder of a time when people took a stand for what they believed in.
In 1982, when I was a freshman at Edgewood College, I was in an Intro
to Political Science; Jim Rowen was my teacher. It was an outstanding
class and very influential on my political outlook. I began the class a
Republican like my parents and family and at the end of the semester
was a Democrat.
The movie was very informative and documented very well the trials and tribulations that the protesters experienced and often times suffered. The build up to the Sterling Hall bombing was very vivid and riveting.
Both the movie, and moreso the class, taught me how wasteful Pentagon spending is when done excessively as it was during the Reagan years as well as with the poor, misguided president we have now.
The movie indicates that with poor policies which lead a nation into a war they have no business fighting, then there will often be repression by the government justifying the war and diligent, compelling people asking questions and voicing their dissent. The hope is that there are enough diligent people as there were during the Vietnam War to make a difference.
I saw this many years ago, but remember it as the best movie to really recreate the feeling of being in the 1960/70's. The government repression, the anger, fear and paranoia are all there. Enough to cause unsettled sleep for 3 nights. I wasn't at Madison, but a much quieter campus, and the experience was the same all over the country. For comparison, I found "Berkeley in the Sisties" to be very boring.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A year-by-year look at anti-war protests at the University of Michigan at Madison, "Vietnam: The War at Home" is a standard (old footage and interviews) documentary on a once-controversial subject. The viewer gets to see how the civil rights protests inspired college students to protest the Vietnam war (as early as 1964!), how groups like the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW - still operating) formed to guide the student protests, and the reaction of society: cops swarming over the campus, politicians calling them "Un-American", Johnson's "truth groups" spreading pro-war propaganda, the Kent State shootings, etc. What I like is that the film shows that hippies and protestors were not one and the same, and how progressive Madison, Wisconsin is ("The Progressive" magazine is still based there.) The whole story of what went on at the UMM is told, including the formation of a small vigilante group called the "New Year's Gang" who blew up a Pentagon-funded mathematics research building, burned down the campus ROTC center, and dropped a dud bomb on a nearby munitions plant in the early seventies. One student took the rap and was sentenced to twenty years. He was released a year after the film was made.
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