American Experience: Season 17, Episode 11

Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst (30 May 2005)

TV Episode  |  Unrated  |   |  Documentary, History
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 420 users   Metascore: 75/100
Reviews: 9 user | 21 critic | 20 from

A documentary on the curious American domestic terrorist group, infamous for the 1974 kidnapping of Patty Hearst.


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Episode credited cast:
Michael Bortin ...
Timothy Findley ...
Dan Grove ...
Ludlow Kramer ...
John Lester ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Marcus Foster ...
Himself (archive footage)
Catherine Hearst ...
Herself (archive footage)
Herself (archive footage)
Randolph Hearst ...
Himself (archive footage)
Richard Neill ...
Himself (archive footage)
Howard Shack ...
Evelle Younger ...
Himself (archive footage)


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

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Release Date:

30 May 2005 (USA)  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$22,444 (USA) (26 November 2004)


$101,439 (USA) (11 February 2005)

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User Reviews

Yet another excellent documentary
27 July 2004 | by (NZ) – See all my reviews

There are so many excellent documentaries being made these days. This another example.

What is so striking about this story is how far people were willing to go to complain about racism and poverty. What's more, many people were willing to support them. One Berkley student, Popeye, makes the most telling statement when he says how sad it is that the likes of the SLA are required to make people act to stop poverty in the US.

Even more disturbing is that no-one would dare even think like this now. They would be branded unpatriotic terrorists. What this doco and see how freedom of speech and thought has been eroded and how the popular media is now just a puppet of the government and big business interests.

It is also incredibly ironic. Patty Hearst joined the SLA in their fight against racism and poverty. As soon as she was captured she was let out within months and Clinton gave her a full pardon. Compare that to those people without money and a powerful family - they went to jail for years. When push comes to shove, money and power will keep you out of jail whilst others involved in EXACTLY the same event go down for 8 years! Where are the SLA when you need them ... ;)

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