This intensely captivating documentary from directors Bill Siegel and Sam Green focuses on the radical political activist group the Weathermen, who organized in the 1960s to protest the Vietnam War. With roots in a group called Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Weathermen represented a small faction of political-minded protesters who believed that, in order to avoid being marginalized and ignored by the US government, they would need to take violent action. Speaking out with clear goals to intentionally inflict violence, their slogan was "Bring the War Home," indicating that they would mimic on U.S. turf the violence that U.S. troops were ordered to carry out in Vietnam. They organized bombings--sometimes botching their plans horribly and causing unintended casualties--that put them on the Most Wanted list of the FBI. In turn, they split up and went underground, trying to avoid prosecution while continuing to plan violent protests. While THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND takes a fascinating look at the wildly daring tactics and philosophies that this group used to try to make a change; it also comments on the group's failures and its irresponsible methods. Some of the most revelatory moments of the film come from other political activist groups, such as the Black Panthers, reflecting back on the actions of the Weathermen, and, in hindsight, looking at the group's practices with new perspective.
Theatrical release: June 4, 2003 (NY) Directors Sam Green and Bill Siegel met while working on a Muhammad Ali documentary series in the early 1990s. Research for the film, which took five years to complete, began in 1998. The members of the Weathermen were initially reluctant to have their stories told, as most of the press they had received previously was intensely negative. After meeting with directors Sam Green and Bill Siegel intermittently over two years, however, they eventually consented. Green and Siegel made a conscious decision to avoid scoring the film with 1960s rock music. While this was partially because the rights to most of that music are expensive, they also felt that, while that music was the sound of a counterculture revolution upon its release, much of it has been cheapened by usage in commercials and decades of play on rock radio. Sam Green chose actress Lili Taylor to narrate the film because he is a fan of her work and liked the sound of her voice. She completed the recording of the narration in one day. In the extra commentary provided on the DVD, Weathermen leaders Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers offer commentary on the film, noting details that were depicted differently in the film the way that they remembered them. Green and Siegel state that their film is meant to stand as neither an endorsement nor repudiation of the actions of the Weatherman, but as a tool to inspire debate in the viewer.
"...An intelligently assembled documentary....Mr. Green and Mr. Siegel have made UNDERGROUND a film of passions, showing what a turbulent period the late 1960's were and slyly contrasting the peace-and-love vibe with events of the time..." - 06/04/2003 New York Times, p.E7
"...A powerful and searching documentary..." - 07/11/2003 Entertainment Weekly, p.62
"...A compelling piece of work that turns out to have unexpected relevance to the current world situation..." - 08/29/2003 Los Angeles Times, p.C1
"[T]he news footage/interview mix works and makes this an effective companion to Errol Morris' THE FOG OF WAR." - 05/28/2004 USA Today, p.6E
"[The film] recaptures a time not known to many younger viewers, when for an instant the nation seemed poised for revolution." - 05/21/2004 Chicago Sun-Times, p.34
"This terrific documentary features footage from the era and contemporary interviews with the major players..." - 06/24/2004 Rolling Stone, p.188