Course Blog for Danny Mayer's ENG 281 course. Post 500 word minimum responses for each film viewed in class. Choose an aspect, theme, cinematic wizardry, or scene, and analyze/celebrate it. Post by the Wednesday before class.
Chelsea's Response: Berkeley in the Sixties by Mark Kitchell (1990)I really enjoyed this film for many reasons. I really liked how everything wasn’t held back and how people that actually experienced these events were able to talk more in depth with what happened during that decade and I actually learned about more events that occurred that I had no idea had even taken place. There were a few people that stood out to me in the interview: Jentri Anders, Bobby Seale, and Ruth Rosen. Jentri Anders was talking about an incident where the police told her she could walk out like a lady or be dragged out. So she said she would rather be drug out like a lady. I thought that was pretty rebellious and clever at the same time. I also thought it was interesting when we were talking in class about how you can get arrested for going limp and that it will be charged against you as resisting arrest. Bobby Seale and Huey Newton both were the founders of the Black Panthers Party in 1966, which was an African American revolutionary organization working for the self defense for black people. Ruth Rosen was an activist whose husband was forced into the military draft in the sixties. There were also the anti-war riots in the streets of Berkeley and in Oakland which occurred for a very long time due to young men being forced into military action. There were buses that were lined up for these young men to climb into to be shipped off to Vietnam. Lyndon B. Johnson was the president that decided the war against the Vietnamese and there was even a soldier who had served during that war and basically called out Johnson saying it was his entire fault. In 1969 the People’s Park was created by all sorts of people in the Berkeley community. This park was built on a site originally supposed to be created into a parking lot next to the University of Berkeley, for all types of people so that they could be free and do activities together. It shortly got fenced in and torn up by officials. Students were also gassed at a peace rally with fumes that caused nausea. I feel that a lot of the events that happened in this film were very un-American as far as goes the police and certain officials. People were beaten and thrown in jail for just simply trying to defend their beliefs and fellow Americans no matter what race or gender and I feel everything was just so unorganized and the important conflicts were being ignored. I couldn’t see there being any college activism now, but at the same time, people still have their personal beliefs and ideas and you never know what hell might break loose. The sixties were definitely a culture defining decade.
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Upon viewing Mark Kitchell’s documentary based on the origins of free speech, I knew immediately I was born into the wrong generation. With the counterculture movement on the rise, political activism causing unrest, and the unity of an entire student body to form a single voice, I became jealous of the fact that so many witnessed something so important to American, if not world history. Before I knew of the documentary, however, I already knew that this particular documentary would be unlike Woodstock. Obviously, the lens weren’t only focusing on a music festival spanning over a three-day period, but rather on a bigger, hairier entity that was hungry for change. The opening narration immediately caught my attention as the information quickly began flowing. The scenes depicted were obviously foreshadowing of what was to come. The Berkley students being dragged out of the Universities’ Sproul Hall was a brutal first image, but it had me wondering why they were even being arrested. This specific type of opening was a good way to introduce the tumultuous times in the Sixties.
“Here's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.” – Mario SavioThis is but an example of many speeches Mario Savio orated to a rally. I am not sure if this is actually a speech towards the student body of Berkley, but this is just an example of the angst he had towards either the student body government, or even the country. This quote represents the time period well, something of which I saw changed throughout the film. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s cameos were quite thrilling. Who knew, at even a time such as the Civil Rights movement, even college students were trying to make a difference. I was surprised to learn that Berkley didn’t even come close to stopping at the University, but also had a hand in anti-war demonstrations. Clips of pickett marches, rallies, gatherings, and even riots that immediately lost control.
What remained interesting to the film was that it portrayed a plethora of events in a related manner. With the constant commentary over the time period, the flashbacks and flash-forwards seemed to work well with an ever-changing Sixties timeline. Music panned in and out, ranging from Jimi Hendrix to Joan Baez. The coloration from black and white to color added a sense of timelessness to the documentary, and the overall message to the people looking back was quite easy to understand: speak out, but don’t cross the line. In the scene with the peaceful demonstration, it displayed helicopters soaring back and forth above the enormous group, dropping nauseous gas that quickly dissipated the confused crowd. It is a symbol of confusion as well for the opposing: they also confused peace with war. The first amendment was confused to be limited to certain, ordinary aspects of life. They never saw it as a threat.
Samuel SpearWhat I most enjoyed about Berkeley in the Sixties is that it was their deep and personal examination of the collegiate political epicenter of the 1960s. It is no secret that the college campus was the nexus of the countercultural political movements. But in a world where education was a prime industry (if I remember correctly I believe the President of the University of California-Berkeley said it was growing at a rate twice that of the rest of the economy), Cal-Berkeley wasn't only the largest school in the country, it was the nest that brooded the prevalence of political activism in American colleges.The format of first hand accounts and nothing but--as I don't remember hearing a narrator--was an excellent vehicle for that message. I take most documentaries with a grain of salt, they almost always have an agenda and you oftentimes don't know where some information is coming from. Berkeley in the Sixties avoids a lot of these pitfalls by only showing footage from events taking place on the campus and interviewing people who were actually there. From the iconic and empassioned speech of Mario Savio to the cool-headed recollections of John Gage, you get not only a wide angle view of what happened, but also nothing gets lost in translation.This was also far from being a cut and dry history documentary. Instead of a narrator or experts in the field, you get nothing but personal recounts and reflections. Dr. Mark Kitchell did an excellent job with whatever he was doing to direct the speakers, as each segment was less like listening to people being badgered with questions and more like listening to them talk about whatever they thought was important about the topic.Berkely in the Sixties was a nice retrospective look at the birth of the youth political movement of the 1960's without all the usual drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll.
A time capsule type film where the director Mark Kitchell has interviewed several students who went to Berkeley during the nineteen sixties when the notoriously quiet school burst in to a metaphoric flame as the students no longer were willing to stand by while their rights to protest were being stripped away from them. This political activism was originally inspired by two or three events like school policies and racial tension, but the focus became all about the Vietnam War, these students were under order by the campus administrators that non campus related political protest were not allowed.By far the most interesting part of the movie was that of the dozen or so students they interviewed just recalling their perspective on all the events. Their individual views on the same event often painted an in depth understanding of the turmoil they had to fight through. Then dealing with the meaning of their actions on today’s world, it seemed almost as some had rarely talked about it before being interviewed for this film as though while they retold their story it seem to jog certain emotions that had been repressed for the past twenty or so years. It’s interesting to hear them talk about the way they perceived the administrators of the college more like parental figures that they despised unlike today where administrators are perceived by most as more like an invisible hand that pushes you when you step outside the conformity.It is good to appreciate the changes that those students at Berkley University made on the world. It was a strong anti-war protest like those at Berkley forced elected officials to second guess drafting citizens and eventually withdraws from the war all together because of the needed quantity of soldiers to try and win. The formation of the Black Panthers Party took place as a result to the police brutality in Oakland California; its founders were simply trying to work towards defending the black community from the racial discrimination they had endured for so long using proactive militaristic actions to encourage the movement referred to as “Black Power.” Finally a brief part focused on the formation of the women’s movement, issues such as domestic violence, maternity leave, equal pay, voting rights, sexual harassment, and sexual violence. For the most part issues like this are less common because of the activism of not only students at Berkley but across the nation, it just happens to be that Berkley had allot more interesting story of their journey against the restrictions of past generations.The Flower Child Movement, better known to us all as the Hippie Movement, was a breakthrough in the sixties fighting through communism, war, and the ideal of peaceful coexistence as absurd as that might sound. This bluntly slanted film was an obvious attempt to show the positive sides of this movement where there currently was mostly a negative opinion of the actions of the students put forth by the powers at be. This film is clearly an accurate description of the events that took place in a format that anyone could appreciate winning several awards and being described as one of the greatest documentaries about the sixties by many people.
The documentary “Berkeley in the 60’s” does a great job of exploring the social movements of that time. The film focuses on the actions of students at the University of California Berkeley, offering background on how everything started. In contrast to Woodstock Festival documentary, I was startled at the violence displayed in this documentary. The footage is rather graphic and the police brutality is disturbing at times, to say the least. On the other hand, however, we get great insight into how students and other young people tricked themselves into thinking that they could stop the Vietnam War by protesting and temporarily closing a draft center in their area. While I like the concept and I admire them for believing in doing the right thing, I felt sometimes that they were doing the same thing that their parents did, manipulating the media to support their cause. At a certain point in the film, students ripped a placard saying that one of their main leaders was a communist into pieces, all while fighting for freedom of speech. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think? An alliance with Black Panthers?! I don’t have anything against black people, I admire Martin Luther King and I totally agree with his nonviolent methods. He knew how to talk to people, how to make himself listen, he knew his way. That’s why he was killed. Having said that I personally have mixed feelings about the Black Panthers Party. They had good intentions in the beginning, and I feel like their fight was somehow just but didn’t justify enough their enthusiasm for weapons. Self protection against cops was not a good enough reason to carry guns considering that at that time, the youth was “fighting” for everyone’s rights, fighting with words and many of them had been imprisoned and thumped by the police. But that was how they proved how abusive the system was, how everything needed to change! The documentary is enhanced even more by some wonderful interviews with people who participated in the protests of the day. The stories they tell provide us with first hand accounts of the successes and setbacks for the social movements of the time. Of particular interest is the comment one lady makes concluding that by the end of the 60’s everything about their lives was changing so fast she herself could scarcely keep up with it all. On the other hand, the Woodstock documentary, shows a different picture about that period. I still had the feeling that the youth was oppressed somehow, but without the violent images. People gathered at Woodstock to celebrate life, freedom, love through their music. Nonetheless the Woodstock generation was a result of the fight started at Berkeley, but it was a generation that tired of protesting, searching for another way of expressing their opinions. They found another way, through music. The 1960s were a time of remarkably fast social change—mostly for the better, even if I don't personally agree with every last action or protest the students and other young people made during this era. The documentary does a superlative job of taking us down the road through the 1960s in a methodical fashion with great interviews of people who participated in the protests and copious footage of the establishment's disdain for their actions.