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Underground (1976) Online

Underground (1976) Online
Original Title :
Underground
Genre :
Movie / Documentary
Year :
1976
Directror :
Emile de Antonio,Mary Lampson
Cast :
Bill Ayers,Kathy Boudin,Emile de Antonio
Type :
Movie
Time :
1h 27min
Rating :
6.7/10
Underground (1976) Online

It's the mid 1970s and the Weather Underground Organization (WUO), a radical (and violent) offshoot of the Students for a Democratic Society, explains to leftist filmmakers the difficulties and experiences of being underground and wanted by the federal government. {locallinks-homepage}
Credited cast:
Bill Ayers Bill Ayers - Himself (as Billy Ayers)
Kathy Boudin Kathy Boudin - Herself
Emile de Antonio Emile de Antonio - Himself
Bernardine Dohrn Bernardine Dohrn - Herself
Jeff Jones Jeff Jones - Himself
Haskell Wexler Haskell Wexler - Himself
Cathy Wilkerson Cathy Wilkerson - Herself

Did you know that all of the so called "Weathermen" in this film were domestic terrorists and were despised by virtually everyone in American minus the small numbers of Communists and their fellow travelers?


User reviews

Jack

Jack

This film is not likely to be of interest to anyone who does not already know the basic history of the Weather Underground and the Students for a Democratic Society, with the possible exception of radical activists. It is basically an interview with some of the wanted members of the Weather Underground Organization, a radical left "terrorist" organization which grew out of the 60s political counterculture. WUO was wanted for a string of bombings (including the US Capital Building), and as such their faces are not visible. All of the members of the group who are interviewed in the film have since surfaced, and some are presently serving long prison sentences.

I was born in 1972, and as such I was not really cognizant of what was going on the mid-70s but in hindsight what strikes me about this film is how much it feels like the "end" of something. The political idealism of the 1960s had long since imploded, and WUO's struggle seems futile - a few dozen radicals does not a revolution make.

It is interesting to hear stories about what drove these people to pursue a life of armed struggle in the United States. Short clips of Black Panthers and people like Fidel Castro are included to give context to WUO's struggle. WUO was not a nihilist organization; there were specific aims and ideology behind what they fought for.

In no way do I condone their actions, and my politics are very much opposed to that of WUO's, but you have to admire the courage, dedication, and commitment to action (rather than just talk) which defined this organization.

Before watching this film (still in print), it would be helpful (if you have not already done so) to do some reading on the subject, or else the film is not likely to be of much interest (Familiarity with the basics of WUO and its origins is assumed).

Try Ron Jacobs's superb "The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground" for starters.

The value of this film is in its underlying optimism; that there was a time in America where people felt that they really could change the world - that you could fight the system and win.

WUO failed, of course, and several decades of cynicism and apathy followed.
Camper

Camper

When I was a young lad I heard some references to the then infamous "Weather Underground", but never really had a full grasp of who and what they were at the time. As I got older I heard a bit more about the organization, then dutifully filed them under "fringe group" and promptly forgot about them.

Then I saw this documentary. Something in the back of my mind said "Huh, this sounds very familiar..." And then the imagery of what I would refer to as long-haird-baby-sitter types, replete with wide brimmed leather caps and so forth, splashed onto the screen with moderately faded and grainy colors that was 1960's news film.

And then the documentary unfolded, and the story of the Weather Underground was told. As far as documentaries go it was fairly decent. The film showed the images of what impressed the members of the Weather Underground to wage a campaign of violence. And herein we gain insight to some of their thinking and beliefs, and what ultimately drove them to commit horrible acts of violence against institutions.

We the audience are exposed to images showing the acts-of-oppression, and the rhetoric of the Vietnam war that the Weather Underground believed they had to sift through in order to come to their own version of a clear-minded conclusion. It was the Weather Underground's belief that the injustices they perceived boiled down to some basic elements that troubled society as a whole. But herein lies the problem, they themselves aren't able to articulate precisely how their actions will bring about change, nor why they believe people will take up the cause of violence to turn the social power structure on its head.

But that's not really a short-coming of the film, so much as it is a short-coming of the Weather Underground themselves. They see a problem, consider all forms of protest, take a more radical and violent avenue as their course of action, but then fail, and, I think, knew they would fail. Or if they didn't, then it shows how short sighted said young revolutionaries were. In this regard the film, unexpectedly, comments on the ability of any social movement to properly digest and weigh data on whatever it is that concerns them. In other words, based on the testimony in the film, it appears the Weather Underground got wrapped up in itself.

The film itself could stand to be cleaned up a bit. A new print from the master negative would do much to preserve a slice that reveals some of America's more violent history. The film makes for an interesting one-off viewing, and reminded me of another time. If you're into seeing what some of the 60s and early 70s were about, then give this look.
Dalarin

Dalarin

While not director Emile de Antonio's finest, UNDERGROUND is still a compelling piece of film-making, capturing in-depth interviews with members of the 60s/70s radical Weathermen. Bernadine Dohrn is front and center as she and other "comrades" explain themselves. They are alternately fascinating and cringe-inducing. These "kids" come across as, if not insane, extremely naive. Realizing that peaceful demonstration was not going to help them overthrow the US government, they resorted to violence (specifically bombings) to further their unrealized goals. Intercut with scenes of various protests and revolutions (from Malcolm X to Fidel Castro), the film makes the group's cause seem idealistic to the point of being absurd as the interview subjects compare the US to Russia before their revolution! Nevertheless, de Antonio and cameraman Haskell Wexler have created an intriguing time-capsule.
Ydely

Ydely

The movie is almost entirely interviews with members of the Weather Underground. If you're interested in them historically you should probably see it, if only for completeness. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else though. There's not much presence or perspective of anyone in the movie except the weather underground themselves. That is to say the movie seems a bit lost in itself.

Most of the material is speeches given by various members about their ideology, and the historical events (bombings, violence, etc) surrounding their group. What's missing is more in depth interviews about the background of each WUO member. There's very brief backgrounds given but I never got a sense of who any of these people were, only what sounded like a pre-prepared doctrine that they'd been saying over and over for years. I got the impression the WUO were a group of extremely bored people who were tired of their own movement. It should come as no surprise that they stopped being active the same year this movie was released.