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October 24, 1990 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-10-24

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The Michigan Daily

Wednesday, October 24, 1990

Page 5

'6Os activism is alive in film

Berkeley in the '60s
dir. Mark Kitchell


by Jen Bilik
W hen Ralph Nader spoke last
ipring on Earth Day, he was about
as inspiring as a sinkful of dirty
dishes. In a thinly-veiled diatribe of
disillusionment, he proceeded to cat-
alogue every single evil in this
world, from the minute to the grand.
His list took about an hour and I
don't think he took a breath. Meant
to inspire our innate political ac-
tivism as students, it instead over-
whelmed to the point of total disem-
* owerment. He polished off what
started out to be an inspirational
evening by informing us that w"'
were probably as politically active as
we'd ever be, and that after we gradu-
ated we'd all go on to be money-
grubbing capitalists with no greater
social concerns. Thanks, Ralph.
The term "The Sixties" has be-
come not just a designation for a
/decade, but instead an umbrella term
to encompass the best within us all.
Before the '60s, we lived in a pre-
'60s world. Now, for better or
worse, we live in the era of the
posties. Unfortunately, the '60s have
become ubiquitous and trite, a catch-
Ell term for what it was that excuses
us for what isn't.
Berkeley in the Sixties is an an-
tidote for the cynicism of the
*osties, and a welcome reprieve from
the empty, jargon-filled politics on
campuses today. With the current
conversational abuse of that golden
decade, I'd begun to feel that the '60s
hadn't ever really happened - that
they were trumped up years of polit-
ical hullaballoo that aging hippies


used to remind us of a time when
their lives had purpose. Thanks to
Berkeley in the Sixties, we can re-
discover a time in which progress re-
ally occurred, a time that actually
earns its reverence.
Directed by Mark Kitchell, the
documentary consists of real footage
from the time, intercut with inter-
views with 15 of the activists that
played a major role, most of whom
are still politically active. The film
is held together by the voice-over
narration of Susan Griffin, one of
the activists interviewed and now a
prominent feminist writer, a narra-
tion that is personal and inclusive.
She uses the "we," a term that often
screams "propaganda!" in documen-
taries, but the film never pretends
not to identify with the events it
Although the various perspec-
tives don't include those of the ad-
ministration or status quo, the
footage of such notables as Clark
Kerr (then president of the Univer-
sity of California at Berkeley) and
Ronald Reagan (then governor of
California) speaks loudly for their
points of view. Add to that the fact
that Kerr refused to be interviewed
for the film itself, and Reagan didn't
even respond to the request, leading
one to believe that either he forgot,
he'd been asked, the letter of invita-
tion was shredded, or Nancy advised
him to visit the Japanese instead be-
cause they paid more.
The film is brilliant in its ability
to provide explanation and coherence
to a movement that most identify
solely with the anti-Vietnam
protests. Rather, it was a movement
that successively united itself around
civil rights and freedom of speech,
Vietnam, the growth of a counter-

culture, the women's movement and
the Black Panthers. The element of
chance that led to each evolution in
the movement's history is remark-
The movement began originally
in 1960 to protest discriminatory
hiring practices in San Francisco.
The demonstrations drew the atten-
tion of the House Un-American Ac-
tivities Committee, inspiring them
to label the protestors as commu-
nists in their film, Operation Aboli-
tion. Clips from the film seem today
as ludicrous as Reefer Madness,
with a man who seems to come
straight out of high school physics
documentaries explaining the perni-
cious and contagious effects of
Instead of squelching the move-
ment, it galvanized the many who
saw through the film's ridiculous
and entirely unfounded nature. This
starting point indicates a phe-
nomenon that was to fuel the
movement long past its original in-
tentions. The government and the
University administration repeatedly
made glaring mistakes in their at-
tempt to handle the various
situations that presented themselves.
Those interviewed repeatedly describe
the administration's reactions as for-
tuitous in their results because they
brought more and more people into
the cause. The students were able to
succeed almost purely on the mis-
takes of their foes.
After the communist debacle, the
University tried to further suppress
the dissent by making illegal the
tables outside campus that
distributed political literature. This
began what would come to
characterize the movement, its
ability to encompass such disparate

A student at the University of California at Berkeley is arrested in Oakland at a demonstration. Berkeley in the
'60s chronicles the modern advent of student activism in the United States.

Goldwater and the Young Socialists
Alliance. Later, the peaceful
movement grew to include the
militant Black Panthers. One
interview describes meetings that
took as long as 30 hours, because,
in order to keep the coalition
together, it "had to be by consensus
and it took forever. Boring, disgust-
ing, time-consuming democracy."
But however boring, the students
knew that solidarity was the only
key to their success.
In the footage of students inter-
viewed at the time, the activists are

groups on campus as Students for
surprisingly articulate. The film
shows the newness of the political
involvement in part by revealing the
level-headed intelligence of its partic-
ipants. Now, student activism is a
given. Students no longer have to
prove their convictions with knowl-
edge and awareness. Instead, they can
postulate about whichever issue-of-
the-week they choose, without the
foundation of informed conviction.
Perhaps Berkeley in the Sixties'
greatest strength is its explanation of
a movement that continues to affect

us all. It reveals underlying dynam-
ics and historical contexts that really
led to change. It is engaging, enter-
taining, and inspirational, without
being untruthful. And it represents
an extension of the movement itself
in its ability to both inspire and edu-
cate, prompting the posties into the
belief that change is possible and
giving us the means by which to do
shown tonight at 9:15 and tomorrow
night at 9:20 at the Michigan

Theater Review

*Sarafina! defines fine!
by Lauren Turetsky


If only the Michigan Theater had a
dance floor for the audience, I am
sure that the audience would have
not only given the cast of Sarafina!
a standing ovation and clamorous
atpplause, but also would have gotten
up to shake their own stuff to the
irresistible beat of the mbaqanga
sounds. This urge, however, was
easily repressed not only by the
absence of such a facility but by the
equally compelling desire to sit back
and be mesmerized by the
performers' own sleek and funky
moves. Their stamping feet, clicking
,eels and bounding twirls combined
a polished professional quality with
youthful raw talent. It was truly a
unique and stunning combination.
Nothing detracted from the
dancing of the cast. Even the stage
had a minimalist quality which
directed the audience's attention to
the performers' movements. The
perfect stage set, which consisted of
only a barbed fence and a military
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tank, provided a stark contrast to the
beauty of the South African culture
- their oppression became reality.
Along with the amazing dancing
in Sarafina!, the performers also
enthralled the audience with their
powerful and beautiful voices. In the
program, cast member Thandani
Mavimbela was quoted as saying
that "singing is his darling." The
performers' love and pride in their
singing echoed clearly in all their

voices. Even when the musical
bordered on being a bit clich6d, or
when some of the lyrics were in
their native language and their
English accents were hard to
understand, the general meaning of
the show was crystal clear and the
cast's talent prevailed. The theater




seemed to be united
of freedom as the
sang, "Freedom

in a celebration
cast members.
is coming


No Guns!
No Cops!
No Code!
Students Rights/Activism Week!
October 23-26


[I October 23:

7:30 Graduate Student Organizing:

Past and Present

i 4

at Rackham-E. Conference Room. Representatives

for more information

TNPRS1 h af.E'.-Z -
C U B (dsr ,wbm I o

from Temple Univ.,

UC Berkeley, U-M GEO

October 24:

6:00 Howard Zinn Student Activism:


the Knowledge Factory at Rackham Lecture Hall
7:30 Student Power in the Nineties at Rackham-E.
Conference Room

October 25:

October 26:

1:00 Rally for Student Rights!

No Guns No Cops

No Code. On the DIAG

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