THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper



The Weathermen were a faction of the 1960s civil-rights and anti-war organization Students for a Democratic Society who broke off to pursue the violent overthrow of the United States government. The group went underground in 1970, until the movement petered out in the 1980s and many of its wanted members gave themselves up. In this documentary, filmmakers Sam Green and Bill Steigel use archival footage and contemporary interviews to illustrate the rise and collapse of a violent organization born of a once-peaceful idealism. It's a fascinating story that suffers in places from gaps: We hear from assorted Weathermen (who remain coy about the details), but only one FBI agent and just two other tangentially linked personalities. The film rattles off Weatherman bombings across the U.S., but to what real effect? (The Weathermen set off a bomb in Pittsburgh's Gulf tower, and in a nice bit of unintentional irony, the news clip of that event shows the "result" of their efforts to stick it to the Man: black janitorial staff cleaning up the mess.) Certainly, the most interesting parts of the film are the varying degrees of hindsight after 30 years reflection. Some participants clearly understand the irony of their previous ways -- that dispensing violence while operating under a moral certitude is simply terrorism and is even akin to what they were ostensibly fighting against -- and yet most believe there is still a battle to be fought. A film sure to inspire provocative after-discussions about how effects and tactics of '60s activism still resonate, for good or bad. Three cameras


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