REBELS WITH A CAUSE (unrated)
Shire Films Official Site
Director: Helen Garvy
Producer: Helen Garvy
With interviews of: Alan Haber, Tom Hayden, Jeff Shero Nightbyrd, Alice Embree, Robert Pardun, Rebecca Schiffer, Junius Williams, Todd Gitlin, Paul Potter, Carolyn Craven, Mary King, Jane Adams
Rating: out of 5
REBELS WITH A CAUSE is a meat-and-potatoes film about Students for a Democratic Society, a much-maligned and much-romanticized nationwide student activist network of the 1960s. Garvy, herself an SDS member, contacted several of the former campus activists from across the nation to compile her history of the organization.
REBELS is your standard talking heads documentary with occasional period pictures and film footage thrown in (and lots and lots of earnest í60s musicóeven ďWe Shall OvercomeĒ gets some play here). Garvy herself appears in the film, setting up the story and summarizing events, as well as providing ample voiceover throughout.
As I looked over my notes, I found that I had been very busy indeed during REBELS WITH A CAUSE. In fact, I canít think when Iíve taken so many notes since, well, since university. Therein lies the issue: The movie is so excessively PBS-like in its presentation, so aggressively education-TV, that I felt like I had to absorb this firehose of historical information for the quiz later. I canít even call this a loving look back, because Garvy has taken more of a historianís flat approach than a filmmakerís personal approach. Given access to these persons, I could have made the identical film.
Donít get me wrong. I think viewers are the better for learning about young, mostly white kidsí heightened awareness of their lives of unshared privilege, and for hearing the SDS membersí recollections (and a few of their reflections on present times). Itís just such a green-vegetable of a film to sit through that folks who donít have the added enticement of actually knowing an interviewee may feel like theyíre back in the lecture hall.
Stretching from its big-bang origins in 1962 to its whimpering finale in the early 1970s, REBEL WITH A CAUSE is a serviceable basic history of the SDS, and I recommend it highly for classrooms or viewers who were in college in the í60s. Folks simply looking to spend their limited entertainment dollars might do well to give this one a miss.
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