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May 28, 1976 - Image 7

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1976-05-28

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Arts & EntertainmentFyHG
Friday,FMaym28,r1976 Pae
Film tells of radicals' tragic life

Editorial note: The film 'Un-
derground' will be playing May
28 and 29 at the old Architecture
Auditorium, under the sonsor-
ship of Cioema Guild. The tol-
lowing isa r eview of a dogu-
mentary which, regardless of
quality, is nonetheless of social
importance. We have added his-
torical contest to clarify the
mood of the times with which
the movie deals.
"A GROUP OF Hollywood's
left - wing crackpots a r e
planning to do a propaganda
puff piece film on criminals.
The ring leader is the notorious
Emile de Antonio, the maker of
a number of pseudo-documen-
tary left-wing propaganda films,
including one smearing the late
Senator Joseph McCarthy and
another supporting the Commu-
nist aggressors in Vietnam."
Representative Larry McDon-
ald (D-Georgia) is referring to
the new documentary Under-
ground. The criminals in ques-
tion are five members of the
Weatherpeople, an off-shoot of
the SDS. The "crackpot" film-
makers include Emile de An-
tonio (Rush to Judgement, In
the Year of the Pig, Millhouse:
A White Comedy), Mary Lamp-
son (America Is Hard to See,
Attica, Painter's Painting), and
Haskell Wexler (Who's Afraid
of Virginia Woolf?, In the Heat
of the Night, American Graffiti,
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's

backgrounds and their first sub-
versive activities. Most could
name a specific time or rally
when they got their 'calling.'
At some point they knew the
decision had to be made and
they made it.
the Army-McCarthy hearings on
television and the feeling that
something was wrong. It was
not until eight years later that
she took part in her first dem-
onstration (anti-HUAC). These
activities led her to join the
SIBS, where she was elected to
one of its national offices.
Through that position she was
able to meet with both the
Vietnamese and the Cubans.
It was this experience in par-
ticular that she attributes to
making her a "full-time revolu-
Kathy Boudin was raised in a
leftist family and also considers
her experience with the Cubans
her first taste of revolution.
She was in Havana in January
of 1961, where thousands of Cu-
bans had bathered to celebrate
the Cuban revolution, which
celebration culminated with a
large parade that lasted nearly
seven hours. The parade fin-
ished with a display of military
strength, including guns, tanks,
and missiles. Boudin suddenly
realized that she was cheering
for something she did not be-
lieve in. A Cuban friend noticed

'The documentary amounts to a series of dia-
logues between the fugitives and the filmmak-
ers. The purpose of the film was to delve into
the backgrounds of these people and then ex-
amine the underground as it exists today.'

could begin, a 'safe house' had
to be found. It is a house that
looks completely normal: books
on the shelves, sheets on the
beds and dishes in the cup-
boards. After this was accom-
plished, everyone moved in for
three days of intensive filming.
THE ACTUAL filming was an
even larger problem. There
were only three camerapersons
and only three days in which to
shoot the film. However, the
main problem was concealing
the faces of the Weatherpeople.
Two techniques were employed;
the first was shooting through
a scrim, a heavy gauze-like
material that allows silhouettes
to be seen without revealing
any identifying features.
The scrim provided the pro-
tection needed, but built a bar-
rier between the filmmakers
and the Weatherpeople. No one
felt comfortable in the situation
and likened the scrim to a bar-
rier that needed to be over-
come, like racism or Vietnam.
The other technique used was
to face the camera into a mir-
ror so one only sees the back
of the person talking. I doubt
that this gave away anyone's
identity, but I have seen more
stoic - looking filmmakers and
camera equipment than I ever
want to see again.
It was obvious that 90 min-
utes of fuzzy silhouettes, backs,
hands and hair would be in-
credibly 'dull, even with the
dialogue. To remedy this, fre-
quent footage of old newsreels
were inserted, pertaining to the
events being discussed. This
proved to be the most effective
part of the film, and was even
poignant at times.
NEWSREELS went back as
far as the 1930's with labor
strikes in Chicago and Flint.
The more recent ones included
a Vietnam veteran's p r o t e s t
against the war on the steps of
the Capitol. One cannot watch
clips that took place less than
five years ago and not cringe a
bit at the apathy seen on the
campuses of today. Remember
the GEO strike?
The first day of shooting did
not go as well as everyone had
hoped. Though the scrim bar-
rier had been removed, there
was still the security obstacle.
Filming into the mirror re-
quired the participants to sit in
odd and uncomfortable posi-
tions. The filmmakers were
apart from them; communica-
tion was strained, but they had
reached a point where they
were able to admit it. The free
and honest dialogues de An-
tonio wanted were not hap-
Wexler, however asked the
question that brought everyone
together. How do you handle
fear. Fear, an emotion common
to everyone-but it takes on a
much greater meaning when
one is a fugitive.
all felt it, but in an underground
situation you learn to control it
and try to channel it in other
directions. Jones s a y s that
"everytime I see a policeman,
I have this rush of adrenalin.
I remind myself who I am, what
my name is, what my various
numbers are, where I'm going,
where I've been. Everyday I
wake up and wonder how many
times I'm going to be nervous
today, 'cause it happens every
For the Weatherpeople free-
dom means you know that they

do not know.
Yet they feel it was a choice
to go underground. The Weath-
erpeople see it as an offensive
ploy. A strong underground is
key to a successful revolution.
They also wanted to show that
the underground is not as op-
pressive as it sounds. They do
not spend their lives hiding in
dank basements. They move
freely in public places and some
even hold regular jobs.
To prove their point, they took
the filmmakers to an unemploy-
ment office where several of
them proceeded to talk to wel-
fare recipients about social rev-
olution. They' repeated these
actions at a local hospital where
striking doctors were picketing.
HOWEVER, IT may have
been at this rally that the FBI
first learned of the film's pro-
duction. On the roof of the hos-
pital was a rotating video tape
camera scanning the crowd. The
chances are good that they were
photographed t h e r e by the
LAPD. By the time the police
realized who they had filmed,
and turned the footage over to
the FBI, de Antonio's film was
already processed and out of
the lab.
Though t h e Weatherpeople
claim they made the choice to
go underground, it is interesting
to note that everyone made the
choice simultaneously on March
6, 1970, the day of the explosion
in a Greenwich Village town-
house that killed three mem-
bers of their organization. De
Antonio saw this as an impor-
tant part of the film, and the
making of the Weather Under-
ground. The Weatherpeople did
not agree with him, but con-
sented to talk about the inci-
They feel that they are not a
terrorist or an adventurist or-
ganization. Their bombings are
symbolic and they do not bomb
to hurt people. Their targets
are given prior warnings. The
worst of their bombing seemed
to be that one in Greenwich
Village where some dynamite
accidently ekploded, killing their

was much tougher fifteen years
They see themselves as com-
munists, but they see a dis-
covery of self through society,
rather than a submergance of
individuality. They regard the
doctrines of Mao and his an-
alogy of dreams and work. If
one has dreams, one can and
will work. If people have work,
they will have dreams.
Thse ironic thing aibouit this
film is the controversy it has
aroused in Washington and Hot-
lywood. Wexler, Lanipson, and
de Antonio were all issued sub-
poenas to testify before the
grand jury, and to bring with
them "any and all motion pic
ture film, including all nega-
tives, working copies and prints,
and all sound tracks and soutid
recordings made in connection
wit hthe filming of such motion
pictures, concerning a group
known as the Weathermen or
Weather Underground."
All three filmmakers flatly
refused to cooperate.
THIS CASE has pointed up
several questionable legal prac-
tices. The "grand jury" has long
been associated w i t h legal
abuses and now they want to
use it as a vehicle to gather
intelligence information. Wexler
stated that this was in viola-
tion of the First Amendment.
He told one reporter, "What
the government is demanding is
our notes. It's as if, as you
leave here, someone says, 'Give
me those little pieces of paper
you're writing on. I want them
to study what kind of an article
you're going to write or what
kind of film you're going to
make.' "
Hollywood did not take the
matter of the subpoenas light-
ly. Film producer Burt Sch-
neider and the Southern Cali-
fornia ACLU circulated a state-
ment in defense of filmmakers
and de Antonio in particular:
"We support the right of the
people to make a film about any
subject, and specifically the
right of these people to make a
film about the Weather Under-
ground Organization, and we

In spite of the grand jury and
the FBI, Underground has been
-released. It will be screened
Friday and Saturday night in
Ann Arbor. All proceeds of the
film will be going to groups
designated by the Weatherpeo-
THE FILM is a documentary
about the u n d e r g r o u n d in
America. Bernardine D o h r n,
Billy Ayers, Kathy Boudin, Jeff
Jones, and Cathy Wilkerson, all
members of the Weatherpeople
participated in the film. The
documentary a m o u n t s to , a
series of dialogues between the
fugitives and the filmmakers.
The purpose of the film was to
delve into the backgrounds of
these people and then examine
the underground as it exists
Why did these people become
"professional revolutionaries"?
How do they cope with fear?
What are the actual workings
of the underground?
Racism was the catalyst to
most of their revolutionary ac-
tivities. The race riots of the
early sixties and the later anti-
war demonstrations b r o u g h t
their actions to a head. Most
wei members of the SDS until
the movement began to falter
in late 1969. -It was then that a
more radical branch formed it-
self into what is now the Weath-
erpeople. The group is credited
with 25 armed actions to date,
ctne of the latest being, in Sep-
tember of 1975, a bombing on
the second annivarsary of the
military takeover of Chile.
De Antonio asked each of the
now-fugitive radicals about their

her distress and pointed out
that it was the U.S. that made
such displays necessary. Days
later, the Bay of Pigs incident
The name "Weatherpeople"
has always been associated with
fear and destruction. People
imagine its members to be
crazed, irrational terrorists and
it was de Antonio's intention to
prove otherwise. He wanted to
show them as reformers, and
though using questionable tac-
tics, they have r a t i o n a l l y
thought out their actions.
DE ANTONIO first became
enchanted with the idea of mak-
ing a film on the underground
when he read a copy of the
Weatherpeople's book Prairie
Fire. The book is an attempted
explanation of America as they
see it. De Antonio stated, "I
had always been impressed with
the tender loving care with
which their bombings were ex-
ecuted. No one was ever hurt
and they were all directed
against the symbols of oppres-
sion and authority."
He had to use an intermedi-
ary to reach the Weatherpeople,
who agreed to cooperate on the
project, in hopes of reaching a
large number of people with
their message. De Antonio had
control of the filmatic content,
but the Weatherpeople had con-
trol- of security.
Obviously making a docu-
mentary film with and about
fugitives involves some risks,
on both sides. Elaborate pre-
cautions were taken in setting
up the initial meeting with the
underground. B e f o r e filming

'Wexler, Lampson, and de Antonio were all
issuled subpoenas to testify before the grand
jury, and to bring with them "any and all mo-
tion picture film ... concerning a group known
as the Weathermen or the Weather Under-

That accident is over and
they are looking to the future.
They all remember March 6,
but they are not letting it deter
them from their goals.
WHAT ARE their goals? They
want social revolution and
feel it will not come passively.
They are fighting the U.S. gov-
ernment and plan to do it with
their methods -- violence. The
Weatherpeople do not agree that
everything is happening too fast,
too soon and too violently.
Dohrn claims that that is said
of everything.
The Weatherpeople see the
revolution coming, and see pro-
gress being made. They feel
the victory of the Vietnamese
people was their victory as well.
Not as much progress has been
made with racism. They con-
cede that it is tough to be a
black, in today's society, but it

deplore the efforts of the FBI
and the grand jury to prevent
them from completing their
This statement was signed by
such commercial notables as
Warren Beatty, Harry Bela-
fonte, Peter Bogdanovich, Mel
Brooks, Sally Fields, Elia Ka-
zan, Shirley MacLaine, Jack
Nicholson, Arthur Penn and Jon
Remnd you of the blacklist-
ing of the 50's? Painfully so.
Fortunately for all, the sub-
poenas were dropped.
This documentary, as film, is
not great, but its making con-
stitutes a significant act. For
the present, the filmmakers
have successfully upheld their
rights under the First Amend-
ment. They defeated the grand
jury when it tried to use them
for gathering intelligence infor-

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