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The Weather Underground

4.1 out of 5 stars 97 customer reviews

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(May 25, 2004)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Hello. I m going to read a declaration of a state of war...Within the next 14 days we will attack a symbol or institution of American injustice --Bernardine Dohrn

Thirty years ago, with these words, a group of young American radicals called The Weathermen announced their intention to overthrow the U.S. government. Fueled by outrage over the Vietnam War and racism in America, they went undergound during the 1970s, bombing targets across the country that they felt symbolized the real violence that the U.S. government and capitalist power were wreaking throughout the world. From pitched battles with police on Chicago s city streets, to bombing the U.S. Capitol building, to breaking acid-guru Timothy Leary out of prison, this carefully organized clandestine network attempted to incite a national revolution, while successfully evading one of the largest FBI manhunts in history.

One of the top documentaries of the year, this award-winning film interweaves extensive archival material with modern-day interviews to explore the incredible story of The Weather Underground. As former members reflect candidly about the idealistic passion that drove them to bring the war home, they paint a compelling portrait of troubled and revolutionary times, with unexpected and often striking connections to the current world situation.

Special Features:

Commentary From Former Weathermen Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers; Filmmaker Commentary; Original Weathermen Audio Communiques; Bonus Film on Former Weatherman David Gilbert: A Lifetime of Struggle; Excerpt from Emile de Antonio film Underground; Filmmaker Biographies; Filmmaker Statement; Spanish Subtitles; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection


The key players in the radical movement known as the Weather Underground are skillfully brought to life in this Oscar-nominated documentary. The Weathermen were born of sixties protest, but took their scheme to overthrow the U.S. government to especially violent extremes. Never a well-populated movement, the Underground petered out as its leaders aged during the seventies; by decade's end, weary of hiding, most of them had turned themselves over to the authorities. That journey, by which a fire-breathing revolutionary such as Bernadine Dohrn became a (still fiery) gray-haired wife and mother, is an intriguing one. This film, rich in period footage (and some unnecessary sensationalism) captures the era somewhat broadly. But the present-day interviews with the participants, contrasted with their radical selves, provides an exceptionally detailed look inside the organization itself. It's not a nostalgic look back, and the overall mood is sobering rather than celebratory. Lili Taylor provides the narration. --Robert Horton

Special Features

  • Original Weathermen audio communiques
  • Bonus film on former Weatherman David Gilbert: A Lifetime of Struggle
  • Excerpt from the Emile de Antonio film Underground
  • Filmmaker biographies
  • Filmmaker statement

Product Details

  • Actors: Lili Taylor, Pamela Z, Jim Lange
  • Directors: Sam Green, Bill Siegel
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: May 25, 2004
  • Run Time: 92 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001LYFKO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,287 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Weather Underground" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
In some ways, the group known as the Weather Underground (originally the Weathermen, an offshoot of Students for a Democratic Society) were more a symbol of 1960s radical idealism than a real revolutionary movement. Although they planted many bombs during a decade-long period, they never did anything that seriously threatened the government or power structure. Their goal, of course, was to spark a mass movement and inspire others to follow their example, but they remained essentially marginalized. The film, The Weather Underground does a good job at letting members of this group explain their motives and, in some cases, misgivings about their foray into revolution. Directors Bill Siegel and Sam Green seem to be sympathetic with the movement, and most of the material is told from the point of view of members. Leaders of the group Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers have retained their radical views and are anything but apologetic about their past actions.
Most members of the group, despite the bombings, were committed to not harming people. This brings up a rather blatant omission in the film -Kathy Boudin, perhaps the group's most notorious member (for her participation in a robbery where a man was killed) is not mentioned at all. This was an unfortunate decision, apparently done to portray the Weathermen as essentially nonviolent. To leave out such a well known chapter in the group's history leaves a gaping hole. Still, the parts that are included are fascinating and give a glimpse into the idealism and naivete of these leftist radicals.
In retrospect, it is (at least from one perspective) a little sad to see how little long term effect the 1960s counterculture had on society. It seems that they were no match for the propaganda machine of the government and mass media.
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Format: DVD
At the end of the 1960's, the various student youth movements took a sharp turn toward the far left. Frustrated by their failures to halt America's involvement in the Vietnam War, a growing minority of student activist leaders whole-heartedly embraced Marxist dogma and began agitating for the overthrow of the United States government. There were a few niggling problems to attend to first, such as taking over the leadership of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which they accomplished at the 1968 SDS national convention. An interesting thing to remember about extremists regardless of their political leanings is worth mentioning at this point: radicals can't get along with one another. Views and positions take on the rigidity of absolute, immutable truth, and anyone who opposes those views is the enemy--even if they're on your side to begin with. Thus SDS almost immediately disintegrated into squabbling factions of increasing irrelevancy. The most notable group to arise from the ashes of SDS were the Weathermen, an extreme far left organization devoted to bringing about a Marxist revolution in the United States. The name of the group, as you probably know if you're reading this, came from a Bob Dylan song.

The Weathermen, later known as the Weather Underground after the members went into hiding, utterly failed to achieve any of their objectives. Their first big action occurred in Chicago when the group launched their own version of Kristalnacht, called "The Days of Rage." The Weathermen and their associates roamed through the streets of Chicago, breaking windows, fighting with cops, and generally making a huge nuisance of themselves.
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Format: DVD
Many documentary film-makers don't play fair. They ignore any fact or argument that doesn't support their position, and edit their footage in a way that forces you to accept their views. Their goal is not to inform, but to persuade.

Consider Michael Moore. I like his documentaries -- and I'm inclined to agree with him on the issues he's addressed (e.g., gun control, the war in Iraq, the arrogance and duplicity of the Bush administration) -- but they're far from unbiased. That's fine, of course, because he doesn't pretend to be neutral. He's an advocate who presents ideas and perspectives largely ignored by the mainstream press. His work is valuable (and often entertaining), but ultimately unsatisfying. I always leave a Micheal Moore film wondering what an informed person on the other side would have to say.

"The Weather Underground" is different. Though I'm sure the directors have strong feelings about their subject, they don't express them in the film. Instead, they present a balanced history of the Weathermen and let you form your own opinions regarding this controversial organization that endorsed the use of violence to protest the Vietnam War.

Because the directors resist every temptation to reveal (let alone impose) their personal views, people who watch the film often have wildly different reactions to it. I first saw the movie in a packed theater in Chicago. One of the interview subjects was Todd Gitlin, a former president of the SDS who was active in the anti-war movement but critical of the Weathermen. He seemed smart, sensible and thoughtful, and I found myself agreeing with most everything he said. But others in attendance actually hissed whenever he appeared on screen. I'm sure it would have been easy for the directors to make Mr.
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