The Weather Underground

Sam Green, Bill Siegel. | 92 minutes. The Free History Project.


Though it has been years in the making, the timing of this documentary portrait of the Weathermen — college students who spent the ’70s planting bombs and plotting revolution — is uncanny. Watch the film, and it’s impossible not to wonder what response the Weather- men’s bombs might provoke today.

The documentary traces the Weathermen’s violent opposition to the Vietnam War — starting with breaking shop windows in Chicago in 1969 and escalating to the bombing of a U.S. Capitol lavatory in 1971. Aided by a superb array of archival news footage and present-day interviews with former Weathermen and one of the FBI agents who pursued them, the film captures the symbiotic relationship of the right- and left-wing political zealotry of the Vietnam era. The violence and racism of that war spurred the activists to splinter from the Students for a Democratic Society. But, equally true, the government and the media used the Weathermen’s strikes to discredit the entire antiwar movement.

With the fall of Saigon in 1975, the militants ran out of ammunition, so to speak, and their numbers dwindled. The film concludes with ’80s images of one-time radical Jane Fonda leading the nation in a recuperative workout, and the sight of former Weathermen member Brian Flanagan winning $20,000 on Jeopardy. You don’t need a weatherman to know that only the most bizarre act of nature could change the prevailing winds today.

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