HTF REVIEW: "Berkeley In The Sixties" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Dec 11, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Berkeley In The Sixties

    Studio: First Run
    Year: 1990
    Rated: NR
    Film Length: 117 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
    Subtitles: None

    Last month I reviewed the terrific documentary Fighter,
    which was being distributed by a small independent
    company called First Run Features. The company
    has asked me once again to look at another one of
    their new documentary releases, Berkeley in the
    Sixties, which chronicles the decade's events
    from the birth of the Free Speech Movement, civil
    rights marches, anti-Vietnam War protests to the
    counterculture, the women's movement and the rise of
    the Black Panthers.
    As this documentary begins, the year is 1960 and
    America is just coming out of the McCarthy era. It
    was the beginning of protests against the House of
    un-American activities, a committee of the U.S.
    House of Representatives, created to investigate
    disloyalty and subversive organizations. On December
    7th 1960 Dwinelle Plaza was the scene of another
    campus demonstration against the House Committee.
    Over 300 students gathered to petition Congress
    against reconstitution of the Committee. This
    demonstration encouraged radical students to get
    together and create SLATE, a platform
    created to teach students about the political issues
    of the time. People looking for truth and meaning
    seemed to find each other, and by 1964, the Berkeley
    campus was swept by a student rebellion against
    restrictions on political activity. The revolt was
    called the "Free Speech Movement."
    This Academy Award nominated documentary interweaves
    the memories of former student leaders who grapple
    with the meaning of their actions. Combined with
    these recollections are thousands of feet of video
    that contain demonstration footage and interviews
    from Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, Mario
    Savio, Huey Newton
    and Allen Ginsburg.
    There are also songs from known The Grateful Dead,
    Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez
    and The Jefferson
    (among others).
    The documentary explores the turbulent times that
    surround Berkeley College during the 60s, including
    the birth of the civil rights movement in 1963 where
    students came together with black activists, trying
    to secure jobs for minorities. As the Berkely
    administration took disciplinary action to stop
    the protests, the student opposition grew larger.
    What other alternatives did these students have to
    express that they were unhappy with the way things
    were going?
    In 1965, the cause turned towards the Vietnam War.
    This documentary takes a look at Vietnam Day,
    the 35-hour anti- Vietnam war teach-in which brought
    35,000 people to the University of California campus
    on May 21 and 22, 1965. This resulted in many
    attempted marches into Oakland, as well as well as
    a confrontation with Hell's Angels. You'll even
    watch as students try and stop a train by marching
    on its tracks.
    We also watch the rise of the counter-culture known
    as hippies, who by 1966 were turning on, tuning
    in and dropping out. These were people who did not
    want to belong to a culture that was destroying the
    world. These were individuals that simply wanted to
    live their life the way they felt life should be lived.
    By 1967, the protests against Vietnam gave rise to
    Bobby Seale's Black Panthers, whose militants
    fed the hungry, protected the weak from racist police,
    and presented a new paradigm of Black political and
    social activism. There's a pretty cool story from
    Bobby Seales about how he raised money to buy shotguns
    by selling little red books on Berkeley campus.
    Finally, the documentary takes a look at People's
    . In the spring of l969 , the Berkeley street
    community initiated a project to transform a barren
    and unused university-owned Lot into a park for the
    whole community to enjoy. It was a way for the
    counter-culture to show how cooperation can be used
    to create something wonderful instead of for profit.
    Because the park threatened the control of the
    university and presented a challenge to the concept
    of private property, the police and National Guard
    were used to brutalize the people and destroy the
    People's Park.
    How is the transfer?
    Usually I prefer not to rate the transfer of a
    documentary in the same manner that I would a feature.
    You just cannot compare the two. I can tell you
    although that this documentary looks a little dated
    (it was made over 10 years ago), overall picture
    quality is quite good. The archival footage is also
    in very good shape here. The mono soundtrack is
    generally very clear, though its qualities slightly
    vary based on the source material.
    Special Features
    When Berkeley in the Sixties was first put
    together, the first draft of the film was over three
    hours in length. Many footage sacrifices had to be
    made to bring the length down to under two hours.
    Deleted Scenes contains approximately 46 minutes
    worth of raw footage that had to be removed. They
    include various clips of protests, speeches and a more
    in-depth look at the rise of Black Power (featuring
    Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.). There's also
    an alternate ending that was originally proposed for
    this documentary but later scrapped. All of these
    sequences begin with a slate of text that gives a
    little background on the footage you are about to
    watch. All of this footage is in raw form as it was
    never intended to be used for the final draft.
    You can get a better feel for the flavor of this era
    by watching Archival Gems, which are a group
    of newsreel footage that give you a sort of snapshot
    of the 60s era. Though they don't fit into the
    subject matter of this documentary, it is kind of
    fun to watch clips of girls at a Kennedy rally, or
    the Hell's Angels Press Conference or even Ken
    Kesey's Acid Test Graduation.
    An Archival Photo Gallery sports approximately
    27 photos that capture the various moments that are
    seen throughout the documentary.
    Finally, we have the film's Original Theatrical
    Trailer, in addition to trailers for other
    First-Run features.
    The only two notable items missing from this DVD
    is one, any sort of subtitles. A representative
    from First Run has expressed that creating subtitles
    is a very expensive process for such a small company.
    Also missing is any sort of booklet that gives you
    production notes or even chapter stops.
    Final Thoughts
    Another terrific documentary and learning experience
    courtesy of the folks from First Run Features.
    Anyone that has ever had questions about many of the
    controversial issues of the 60s generation, may find
    all their questions answered in Berkeley in the
    Sixties, perhaps one of the most insightful
    and fascinating documentaries about the 60s era.
    Release Date: Now
    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
  2. Marty M

    Marty M Cinematographer

    Dec 6, 1998
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    I was in college during the late 60s so this will be a great chance for me to look back to this turbulent era. I recall seeing this movie on a cable channel a few years ago.
  3. Bill McCamy

    Bill McCamy Second Unit

    Jan 1, 1999
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    Gasim de Paris
    Ron's historical summaries from the documentary (the Black Panthers "protected the weak from racist police," People's Park "presented a challenge to the concept of private property") grossly oversimplify the radical political shifts that occurred in Berkeley. While I disagreed with much that happened during my four years at UC Berkeley in the late sixties, I cannot deny the far reaching changes that movements spawned on and about the campus brought to this country. The documentary does capture a time of protest and quasi-insurrection that is hard to imagine, let alone remember, today.
  4. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Ronald Epstein

    The descriptions do not necessarily represent
    my personal views. I am simply writing the review
    based on the views of the parties in question.
  5. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

    Jun 3, 1999
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    On order. I've seen this excellent film before.
  6. Rain

    Rain Producer

    Mar 21, 2001
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    This one looks very interesting.
    I've always been fascinated with that era.
    Thanks for bringing yet another documentary to my attention (and helping to empty my bank account [​IMG] ).
  7. Bill McCamy

    Bill McCamy Second Unit

    Jan 1, 1999
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    Real Name:
    Gasim de Paris

    Avoiding the political as much as possible, I am glad to know that your comments were paraphrasing the documentary, rather than necessarily expressing your own viewpoints.

    I've got a VHS recording of this from PBS that I haven't watched in years. I'll have to review it and decide if it's worth a dvd purchase.

    Thanks for reminding me that the dvd was out and about. And reminding me that my college youth is the stuff of historical documentaries...
  8. James Zos

    James Zos Supporting Actor

    Jan 7, 2002
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    I'll have to check this out.

    Have you (or anyone here) reviewed Hearts and Minds? Best documentary on the Vietnam war I've ever seen, put together and released before the war had actually ended. An amazing work.

    As for the Sixties themselves, I can only wish today's college kids paid as much attention to politics as they did back then.

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