The Weather Underground

A lot of people say that when somebody is young, they are idealistic, opinionated and liberal. As they grow older, they finish their education, get jobs, and begin to pay taxes. The more taxes they pay, the more conservative they get. Something certainly happened to the members of the Weather Underground, a group of student radicals responsible for numerous domestic bombings during the 1970s. They took their name from the lyrics of a Bob Dylan song, and over the course of a couple of years they went from student activists to criminals on the FBI's Top 10 list. The Weather Underground, a documentary by Sam Green (Pie Fight '69, The Rainbow Man) and Bill Siegel, tracks their history, and has interviews with the members today.

As a documentary, it is not that great. It doesn't shed any special light on events, and feels like it is a bunch of information culled from different sources. That said, it does present a decently comprehensive account of events from various sides, but this is nothing that a particularly studious researcher couldn't accomplish. What is interesting is that much of the documentary is narrated by Weather Underground members Bernadine Dohrn, Billy Ayers, Naomi Jaffe, and Mark Rudd. The members today are still active politically in various fashions, but nowhere as extreme as they were a few decades ago.

What set the Weather Underground apart was their passion and ardor. Formed mainly as a result of the Vietnam War, the group wanted to show America the horrors of war, and decided to bring the war to America. They believed there were in a state of war with the US government. Battle came in the form of a series of bombings, usually accompanied by some sort of note or message identifying the Weather Underground as the instigators and proclaiming what the bombing was in response to. These actions are particularly interesting given the current political climate of this country. There is certainly opposition to US actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, but nobody is protesting to this extent. The only comparable group in existence today is the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a group considered on the outer fringes of the environmental movement. It is refreshing to see young people so concerned about politics, and it is horrifying to see how misguided their intentions became.

At one point, the members of the Weather Underground went into hiding, some for nearly a decade. This is where the documentary falls short. The members don't say much about where they were, what they did, and how they managed to stay in hiding. This is the part of the story that most people know little about, and after watching the documentary, there are still many questions remaining. The Weather Underground gets a little better when Green and Siegel have the members reminisce about the lessons they learned. The documentary may not necessarily be relevant in today's apathetic college climate (well, as long as colleges don't take away their file sharing), but it does present some interesting questions.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 32 minutes, Not Rated but contains some nudity, violence, and language, probably an R, possibly a PG-13.

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