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Rebels With a Cause

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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(Apr 15, 2003)
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Editorial Reviews

Deftly charting the sweeping socio-political changes of the Sixties that began with the Civil Rights movement and culminated with angry protests against the U.S. war in Vietnam, REBELS WITH A CAUSE is told through the eyes of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Begun in 1960 with a handful of members and high ideals, SDS became a nationally powerful antiwar organization with over 100,000 members. But in 1970 the group began to disintegrate amidst internal conflict and government counterintelligence crackdowns. In the aftermath, some went militant as the ill-fated Weather Underground; others channeled their activism through prominent careers as journalists, politicians and professors. Mixing eloquent contemporary testimony from SDS members such as writer/professor Todd Gitlin, Senator Tom Hayden and NPR commentator Juan Gonzalez with scintillating archival footage from the front lines of the movement, Helen Garvy's REBELS WITH A CAUSE chronicles the values, motivations and actions of a generation that lost its innocence--and helped change America.

Special Features

  • Background history on the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)
  • Excerpts from SDS's Port Huron Statement, a seminal activist document of the Sixties
  • Reprint of a 1965 March on Washington speech by then-SDS president Paul Potter
  • Bio of filmmaker Helen Garvy

Product Details

  • Actors: Todd Gitlin, Tom Hayden, Juan Gonzalez
  • Directors: Helen Garvy
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Unknown)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Shire Films
  • DVD Release Date: April 15, 2003
  • Run Time: 109 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008DDV3
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,346 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Rebels With a Cause" on IMDb

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Format: DVD
I'm surprised that no one has reviewed this DVD yet. It deserves to be seen by anyone hoping to comprehend, at this late date, the important role of SDS in the political turmoil of the '60s.
Helen Garvy, a long-time SDS member and staffer, has produced an utterly sincere documentary about SDS's history, as seen through the eyes of those who participated in it. Given that upfront slant, it is reasonably objective and thoughtful. It is also crisply produced, well-photographed, and nicely packaged.
I'm not quite sure, however, what today's generation of college students and anti-war activists are likely to make of it. As someone who was immersed in the youth culture of the '60sand 70's, I found it slightly unnerving to watch 90 minutes of greying radicals -- most of them old enough to be grandparents -- reminisce about civil rights, the anti-war movement, and the hopes and dreams of that earlier era. Not that they don't have plenty of worthy things to say -- they do -- but the juxtaposition of interview clips with b&w photos of the same members as young radicals definitely had me contemplating my own mortality.
Contrast this, if you will, with the energizing effect of another recent documentary, "The Weather Underground," which has similar juxtapositions, but somehow manages (through a wider array of film clips) to actual throw the viewer back into the emotional intensity of the time. "Rebels With a Cause," by contrast, feels more like sitting down with one's parents and leafing through an old photo-album.
Still, I don't mean to damn Garvy's effort with faint praise. This is valuable oral history, perfect for stimulating discussion in a study group or class.
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Format: DVD
I wish I could have gotten my hands on a copy of "Rebels With a Cause" three years ago when I wrote a short historiographical piece on Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Alas, I didn't own a DVD player then. Too, my professor probably wouldn't have let me cite it as a source. But watching Helen Garvy's account of the rise and fall of the largest New Left organization in the 1960s doubtless would have made my journey through the written sources less painful. I waded through Kirkpatrick Sale's massive 700 plus page tome, Todd Gitlin's equally weighty book on the 1960s, an intellectual history of SDS, and a couple of other heavy reads that left my mind reeling with information. Yep, Garvy's documentary would have cut through all the minutiae found in those books and given me a few touchstones to wrap my analyses around. At the same time "Rebels With a Cause," due to its running time, necessarily moves through dense information quite quickly. A viewer wishing to know a lot more about SDS will need to consult other sources of information. Too, Garvy has a tendency to whitewash some of the group's unsuccessful activities.

I'm quite impressed with the documentary. I've seen a few of these counterculture/New Left video presentations over the last couple of years, and Garvy succeeds in bringing us faces we've heard about in other places but haven't seen on camera. Folks like Bernardine Dohrn, Billy Ayers, Tom Hayden, and Todd Gitlin appear to offer insights, of course, but we also hear from Carl Oglesby, Sue Klonsky, Al Haber, Carl Davidson, Jeff Shero, Mike Spiegel, Bob Ross, and Casey Hayden. Wow!
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Format: DVD
In previous reviews in this space this writer has alluded several times to the 1960's movements for social change -the defense of the Cuban Revolution, the fight for nuclear disarmament, the centrally important black civil rights fight, the struggle against the Vietnam War and the emerging struggles for women's and gay rights. And ultimately, for a few (too few) of us, the necessary struggle to change the social organization of American society-the fight for socialism. In short, all the signposts for that part of a political generation, my generation, which in shorthand I will call the Generation of '68. Let us be clear, nostalgia and the ravages of time on the memory on the part of this writer aside, this was a short but intense period that he believes requires serious study.

Militant leftists today face many, if not all, of the social problems that confronted the generation of '68. Thus, a careful viewing of this film is warranted by those who want to understand what went right and what went wrong with student movement centered on the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) of the 1960's that held out much promise but in the end left the field to the ugly predator capitalists and their agents. Many of the points discussed in this documentary parallel those made in Professor Todd Gitlin's seminal book: THE SIXTIES: YEARS OF HOPE, DAYS OF RAGE. I have fully reviewd that important book elsewhere. One can profit from using both sources, although Professor Gitlin is now as then a political opponent of mine.

I would add two additional comments concerning the `talking heads' that are used to tell the story of the student struggles. I found that not one of interviewees mentioned the word socialism as an animating force behind their very deeply held convictions at the time.
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