Mark Kitchell’s documentary film about the 1960s and protest movements looks at the action in Berkeley to profile a decade of extreme social change. Using hours of archival footage, Kitchell has synthesized segments representing the evolution from the McCarthy era, Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and the Peace Movement, all challenging the status quo in Northern California. Interspersed between the archival film are interviews with dissidents, now matured. At the end of the film, Kitchell fills in the gaps and apprises the viewer of the personal evolution of those young people who were integral in the many social justice movements of the era. It is a profound statement of the significance of the changes that took place that most of the former activists remained true to their beliefs their entire lives.
Berkeley in the Sixties Profiles a Decade of Change
Kitchell’s film begins with the McCarthy era and the House Un-American Activities Committe (HUAAC), leading Berkelley-ites to protest the repression of freedom of speech. It is almost comical to see the old clips accusing everyone that was feared or disliked as being part of a “commie” plot, yet the tragedies that ensued from this witchhunt were very real and very substantial. Following that movement, quickly on its heels, came the Civil Rights movement. A generation of young people believed they could get the nation’s attention and change the world; they began challenging the way of their parents, the materialism, imperialism, and domination of the macroculture. They challenged a conformist culture that was unable or unwilling to look at their own hypocrisy.
Civil Rights, Freedom of Speech, Women’s Rights and the Peace Movement
When the Vietnam War began, the forces were already experienced enough in change to gain momentum and flow into the Peace Movement. While they were not successful in changing the minds of the some of the young military inductees, they shut down the induction center for a time. The Women’s Rights movement was also transpiring, with those who dislike change being challenged by shifting paradigms in quick succession.
Finally, the radicals of Berkeley became a “burlesque” of their former power, became out of touch with reality, and stepped over the line by destroying property in their path – hard to be taken seriously as a “rights” movement if you are violating the rights of others yourselves. Ronald Reagan is seen in the film in old archival footage that seems from another time and another country. Yet there are echoes of the repression of the 1950s, of the divisiveness in the nation, and the frustrations of a people that may well lead to rapid social change in existence once again. Kitchell’s film has a dated feel to it but it is of historical and social significance for the changes that are witnessed and the feelings of the people of that era that are expressed.