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In the late 1960s and early 1970s polarization of American political situation was becoming acute, with the Vietnam War abroad and civil rights at home being the most pressing issues. For the youth political movement, seemingly ineffectual methods of peaceful protest and resistance led to the rise of a faction that wanted a more extreme approach that the government could not ignore. One particular group, the Weather Underground, attempted to team up with the Black Panthers to violently confront the US government. They began with participation in street riots, and escalated their efforts to include the bombing of specific targets associated with the government or local power structures. Thorough archival footage and interviews of participants on both sides of this conflict, this film covers the Weather Underground's campaign of violence through this period, the FBI's strategies and tactics to apprehend them (including some deemed unethical or illegal), until changing times and ... Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
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Great Film - Important Message Against the War Machine
The Weather Underground presents a well-balanced view of the militant faction of the 1960s anti-war group that orchestrated a series of direct actions (including bombings) in protest of the Vietnam War and American imperialism.
To its credit, the film is not overly sympathetic to the members of the group. Rather, it portrays them in a direct and logical manner that tends to explain their more violent activities as the desperate attempts of extremely dedicated activists to engender dynamic change in lieu of those "publicly-sanctioned" methods which they felt were not sufficiently powerful to stop the war machine (i.e., non-violent demonstrations). It should be mentioned that none of the group's bombings resulted in injuries to people, with the notable exception of 3 WU members who were killed accidentally while making a bomb that was destined for an ill-advised attack on military personnel - a seminal moment the the organization's history that "opened their eyes" to the darkness they were headed towards. One cannot help but wonder what would have transpired had that attack been carried out - this is the chilling central lesson of the film, poignantly described by one former member who plainly stated that "the violence didn't work."
At the screening I attended the audience had the good fortune of listening to two of the Weather Underground's key members in person: Bernadette Dohrn and Bill Ayers. This proved particularly interesting, as both individuals, while still espousing their anti-militarism/anti-imperialism views to strong effect, did not express the need for radical tactics as one would imagine they may (given the current climate gripping the nation). Instead, they talked of engaging the issue through learning, organized activism, personal growth and social consciousness/responsibility.
It is this dialectic that makes this film so important right now, and I think that the directors have made an important step towards educating Americans in the subject of social awareness. My only complaint is that this lesson needs a counterpoint, something to break the ultimately sad feeling that one is left with when the screen flickers off at the end. Perhaps if viewed in tandem with a film that explores the victories that have been made through non-violent protest "The Weather Underground" can achieve its best potential.
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