In 1974, a teenage newspaper heiress and Berkeley undergrad was kidnapped at gunpoint from her apartment, setting off one of the most bizarre episodes in recent history. The kidnappers, completely off the map before Patty Hearst disappeared into the San Francisco night, were a small band of young, ferociously militant political radicals, dedicated to the rights of prisoners and the working class. They called themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army. Over the course of about three years they robbed banks, senselessly killed two innocent people, instigated a firefight after attempting to shoplift a pair of socks, and, most famously, converted their hostage and victim. They also achieved an undeniably visionary manipulation of the media, inciting perhaps the first modern media frenzy. Presenting resonating questions about the role of the media in America--mouthpiece? Messenger? Truth seeker? --The ethical dilemmas posed by new technologies, and the proximity of madness to political ... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
'Guerrilla' is a documentary about a bizarre episode in recent American history, the story of a strange left wing terrorist organisation that first kidnapped the daughter of a millionaire, and then made a fellow-terrorist of her. Subsequently, she was captured, recanted, spent time in gaol and then returned to her privileged life. It's a very weird story, and the press didn't quite know how to cover it; as the kidnappers where inaccessible, they focused instead on the millionaire, who found himself at the centre of a media circus with surprisingly little sympathy for him. What's good about this documentary is the extensive use of footage from the time, we see how the story came to be cast by the American media, but we also see a portrait of a climate in which there was a surprising amount of sympathy for the self-styled "Symbianese Liberation Army", perhaps because they more romantic than Marxist, though nonetheless murderous. What the film does not convey (despite access to two SLA members) is the real psychology of those in the movement (the interviewees distance themselves from it's wilder antics), or indeed, that of the Hearst family. Patty has given interviews in the past, but not in this program, and a host of questions about her and her behaviour are raised but not answered. The result is that 'Guerrilla' works as a piece of reconstructed history; but as to whether it is history of significance, or merely a freak show, the jury is still out.
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