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The Sixties: The Years That Shaped a Generation (2005)

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29 September 2005 (USA)  »

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Well done but clearly misnamed, as the documentary is not about THE 1960s--just certain aspects of it.
29 March 2012 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

Making a documentary about a decade and condensing it into two hours is a seemingly impossible task. Doing this with the VERY eventful 1960s is clearly an impossibility and the makers of "The Sixties: The Years That Shaped a Generation" failed miserably to really represent the 1960s. Instead, they focused on portions--and because of this the show is surely misnamed. It also talked a bit about the 1970s--such as the Watergate Scandal and Roe vs. Wade! Perhaps calling it "The Radical 1960s and Beyond" or "The Tumult Beginning in the LATE 1960s" or "1968 to the Early to Mid-1970s" would have been better. For example, although the film talks about the civil rights movement, NOTHING about it before 1968 is mentioned!! No March on Washington, no civil rights legislation, no burning of churches and no murder of civil rights workers like Medgar Evers is mentioned! The film picks up just before the murder of Martin Luther King in '68--as if THAT was the entirety of the movement!

If you are a young person watching this film, you might have seriously some mistaken ideas about the decade. You might assume that everyone in the 60s fell into camps like the hippies, the Black Panthers and...well, that is all. You would assume we never landed in the moon or even went into space. You might assume that there was no music until the Monterrey Pop Festival--so there were no Beatles, British Invasion, Motown or Do-Wop. You might assume that there was no Berlin or Cuban Missile Crisis. And, you would have no idea who John Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev, Sandy Koufax, Yuri Gagarin or Nelson Mandela were. You would have no idea that Israel was nearly wiped out during the Six-Day War. You'd have no idea what was happening in HUGE countries like India or China. Clearly, the film did a lousy job of conveying information or adequately exploring the entire decade.

Instead, this film is clearly a look back at the radical late 60s--particularly the hippies, Panthers and even the students during the uprisings in Prague and Mexico City. These are very good topics for a documentary--but the title just doesn't seem to indicate that this was the thrust. But the film also seemed to indicate that this was almost exclusively a good thing--whereas history has shown that a lot of good and bad came about from these movements. But aside from an amusing interview with Pat Buchanan, there really wasn't a lot to provide balance, perspective or insight. Several times I wish the documentary would have taken some risk--such as confronting Robert McNamara when he asserted that he KNEW the war was unwinnable yet he remained in the Johnson administration as Secretary of War (wow--that struck me as incredibly evil).

Overall, quite interesting and woefully incomplete. If you are on the left, you will probably enjoy the film a bit more than those on the right (mostly because the film seems focused on the left--such as the woman discussing her three abortions) but even then you might be very disappointed because of its omission of so much important history.

My feeling is that to ADEQUATELY portray the 60s, you'd need a film of ten hours...or a lot more.


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