Anarchism in America (1983) Poster

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Generous look at anti-state sentiment in the USA
Maldoror-28 December 2002
This documentary focuses on the state of anarchism in America during the early 1980s, with brief looks at the history of anarchist movements. The narration and several of the interviewees imply that anarchism is deeply rooted in American character and tradition, more so than other countries. Students of anarchism will enjoy the interviews with prominent anarchist writers like Murray Bookchin and Karl Hess. Given the hostile split in anarchism between "right" (free-market) and "left" (socialist) anarchists, each claiming that the other faction doesn't deserve to be called "anarchist," it is gratifying to see this documentary treating both philosophies as equally valid, and indeed not so far off from each other. Many anarchists of both "right" and "left" persuasions will be shocked to hear Hess (a former speechwriter for Barry Goldwater!) favorably compare Emma Goldman with Ayn Rand, or hear him claim that anarchism embodies what he had always thought the Republican Party stood for.

In addition to interviews and photographic history, we see footage of demonstrations, worker-owned businesses, and Thoreauvian independent farms. The punk-rock scene is represented by the Dead Kennedys, who give an interview and perform. We even see a Libertarian Party convention (with special guest Murray Bookchin), even though the official Party position has always maintained that government should be minimized, not eliminated.

Both newcomers and those with an already developed interest in the subject will enjoy this film, which unfortunately is hard to find nowadays. I was rather bemused at the ending, however, when a caption reveals that this rather sympathetic portrait of anti-government ideas was partially funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, _a government agency_. I'm getting a headache...
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8/10
Excellent
chad-596-1332324 December 2009
Part 1 was much better than Part 2, but both are worth watching. Don't expect modern digital editing, its from the early 80s. But the content is solid, and many of the speakers are excellent. It conveys very well what Anarchism is about, dispelling the myths that Anarchy is about chaos. Libertarians will enjoy this film greatly as it contains many Libertarian thinkers and some insight into the founding of the Libertarian Party.

Today it serves not only as a documentary, but a historical archive. Despite it being a historical archive, its relevance is felt today just as strongly as it was when it was made.
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5/10
disappointing documentary!
"Anarchism in America", a documentary from 1983, has arrived on DVD for the first time to share its knowledge and message to a new generation. Maybe that's the thought behind releasing this documentary on the often misunderstood subject of anarchy. The filmmakers set off on a trek across the United States in search of the anarchic voice. Through a well-intentioned, but amateurish approach, they take the viewer through a few bits of historical footage and information to offer a glimpse at the true nature of anarchism in America's past. These infrequent bits become nuisances to the true meat of the production, which is not footage of the team of filmmakers driving cross country (though there's plenty of that) or a last minute arrival of the punk band Dead Kennedys (which feels tacked on), but the interviews with a few highly studied and intelligent voices on the subject. A better film seemingly could have been made from this footage, but unfortunately none of that skill or realization is here. Maybe the point of making such a messy, under-realized film was a broader statement on anarchism, but that's not likely.
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