Films of the decade: "The Weather Underground"

This amazing doc about the radical terrorist group reminds us how fragile American society really is

Published December 24, 2009 5:45PM (EST)

A still from "The Weather Underground"
A still from "The Weather Underground"

In a decade scarred by terrorism and disastrous responses to it, a documentary about homegrown terrorists — militants? revolutionaries? — blew my mind: "The Weather Underground," about the radical antiwar group of the '70s whose mission was no less than the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. For me, too young to know what the Weather Underground were up to when they were at large, learning what they did, and why, in their own words, was seriously disturbing — not least because it seems almost reasonable. They bombed the Capitol, people! Along with police stations, banks and the Pentagon. And they eluded the FBI for years.

The film's directors, Sam Green and Bill Siegel, are wise enough not to take a stand on the morality of violent protest, letting the ambivalence of several of the participants speak for itself. But when you see a clip of Martin Luther King, that icon of pacifism, furiously denouncing the "abominable, evil, unjust war in Vietnam," your head may start to spin too. Seeing the movie again now, in the wake of right-wing attempts to tarnish Barack Obama by linking him with former Weatherguy Bill Ayers (who, like all of the interviewees, is eloquent), is even more disorienting. More than any other movie I've seen, "The Weather Underground" shows how fragile America's social fabric truly is.

Of course, the decade's best movie about our nation's response to terrorism was "Team America: World Police."

Film Salon has invited a group of special guests to write about their favorite film(s) of the 2000s. To read the entire series, go here.

By Lawrence Levi

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