Columbia Revolt (film #350 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Sleaze & Outsider]

This arresting film is a true "outsider film". It was made by students at Columbia University, documenting the violent 1968 demonstrations there from the student radicals' point of view. The film is all grainy black-and-white cinema verite style, with soundtracks consisting mostly of various students spontaneously telling their stories about what they experienced during the protests and what it was all about. Mainly, it was about three things: 1. opposition to the college's close relationship with the Defense Department, resulting in extensive research into war and killing technologies, especially those that were being used in the Vietnam war; 2. opposition to the building of a new gymnasium, which was being planned to occupy a site in the mostly black Morningside Heights neighborhood, taking over a public park and displacing many black families from their homes; and 3. giving students a greater voice in the decisions of the college administration. We see students forcibly taking over and occupying the library; battling with "jocks" (right wing students who opposed them); developing a communal society during the occupation which culminates in a hippie wedding; holding endless meetings and voting and revoting on the demands they are making; being viciously beaten by police officers as they are forced out of the building (these scenes are graphic and quite upsetting); performing bizarre political guerilla theater events on campus; picketing and striking; holding their own "liberation classes"; and protesting commencement by walking out and holding an alternative ceremony of their own. Unfortunately, the film ends unresolved––you don't really find out how successful or unsuccessful they were in bringing about change (this, of course, reveals my ignorance of those events). Still, the film is a visually arresting document of 60s radicalism, political struggle, and the issues that divided the American people, sometimes violently, during that time. And it's a great example of grass-roots filmmaking as well. One of the most historically interesting films in the Prelinger Archive collection.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****+. Overall Rating: *****.

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