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Kent State (1981)

TV Movie  -   -  Drama | History  -  8 February 1981 (USA)
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Based on the true story of the student protests at Kent State University in Ohio. This film focuses on the four students who were killed when the National Guard attempted to quell the riots... See full summary »



(teleplay), (book), 4 more credits »
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Title: Kent State (TV Movie 1981)

Kent State (TV Movie 1981) on IMDb 6.9/10

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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jane Fleiss ...
Allison Krause
Barry Levine
Sandy Scheuer
Jeff Miller
Bill Schroeder
Peter Miner ...
Michael Higgins ...
Professor Glenn Frank
Professor Ted Arnold
Michael Horton ...
Ann Gillespie ...
Shepperd Strudwick ...
Professor Warren
Jean Arnold


Based on the true story of the student protests at Kent State University in Ohio. This film focuses on the four students who were killed when the National Guard attempted to quell the riots that began on May 4, 1970, after President Nixon announced that American troops would begin bombing the heretofore neutral country of Cambodia. Written by Keath

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | History


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

8 February 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Tod auf dem Campus  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


John Filo played the uncredited role of himself. John was the Kent State student photographer who took the Pulitzer Prize winning, world famous photo of Mary Vecchio kneeling by the body of Jeffery Miller seconds after Jeffery was shot to death. See more »

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Balanced fiction made 10 years after the facts
24 May 2010 | by (Belgium) – See all my reviews

The movie shows the events at Kent State Univeristy between April 30th 1970, when Nixon announced his plans to invade Cambodia, and May 4th, when the National Guard killed 4 students, and wounded several others. Beware…. This is not a documentary, no 100 % true account of what actually happened. This is clearly acknowledged by the filmmakers at the end of the movie.

Just to give one example, I haven't made a deep study of it, but most of the photo's I've seen from the actual protesting students show youngsters with less Easy Rider-looks than those depicted in the movie. It even seems to have been somewhat a surprise that these tragic killings happened in Kent, as this University had a rather slightly "conservative" reputation.

On the positive side, I'd like to underline that this movie is really doing its best to show things from different perspectives. There's room for the student's point of view,but also for that of the Guardsmen, the university staff...

To begin with, not all students were happy with what was taking place, and a certain percentage therefor wasn't protesting, just went on going to the classes. Those who were protesting, didn't seem to care very much for strong debates about international politics. There's not much healthy discussions going on about peace versus Real Politik, or about who could be a good replacement for "dear Henry". I have the impression that f. ex. French students were having much more heated philosophical and political debates. In Kent, it seems most students just repeated somewhat hollow slogans (What do we want ? Peace ! When do we want it ? Now !). They were therefor rather protesting with their heart than relying on good arguments and alternatives. A black student sees the protests against the war and military service as something purely "white",showing there even was a racial side to the protests.

On the other hand, the movie also makes a balanced portrait of the Guardmen. Some try to be friendly towards the students, talking with them, even wearing a flower in their rifle, or romancing. We learn that some of them had no experienced at all, and they look somewhat bewildered, finding themselves in a campus. Most of the Guardsmen are terribly tired, because of earlier confrontations with Teamsters. Only a small number seem to be nasty little sadists, but they aren't very popular within the NG itself.

It will probably remain unclear, whether the Nixon administration was somehow involved in discrediting the student movement. When the ROTC building is set afire, some students are wondering aloud who these guys with their torches are, suggesting they were not known to them. And when the unpopular military wooden building is starting to burn, only a few seem to be singing "Come on baby light my fire". Others shake their head in disbelief, as this act of vandalism seems to be a step too far for them. The movie also shows the differences between the staff members of the University. Some authors suggest that about 10 Guardsmen seem to have been targeting specifically certain students. Historians and researchers haven't come up with absolute proof to make this claim stick. And until now, none of the Guardsmen have been convicted for the death or the wounding of students.

To this European reviewer, this movie therefor seems to do its utmost to give a balanced picture of the events. Not all students are portrayed as crypto-communists, as the Nixon administration depicted them to a shocked public opinion. At the same time, the movie clearly shows the National Guard too wasn't a fascist monolith, as some students seemed to think. To be able to come up with a balanced portrait, the movie makers created a number of fictitious characters. Therefor it is no longer a 100 % true account of the events. For those who prefer the true facts, there are several (good) books available. I have begun reading "The truth about Kent State" by Peter Davies for example.

Many Americans who see themselves as "True patriots" still don't find today -with hindsight- reasons to have at least some sympathy for the 1960's / '70's student's movement. However, maybe they will appreciate how this movie shows the difficult situation in which the NG found itself at the campus. Anyway, whatever one's point of view, it's definitely ALWAYS a sad fact when young people lose their life or get seriously wounded, for whatever reason. Made 10 years after the facts, this relatively prudent movie apparently still couldn't convince many Americans about the solidity of this statement.

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