Berkeley In The Sixties

[Produced and Directed by Mark Kitchell, 1990]

The Sixties Counterculture changed the landscape of American life in a dramatic rupture of the 1950s middle-class ethos. There were two historic movements that fused into the counter-cultural values that challenged the materialism of dominant society. The eruption of the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-1950s along with the rise of the New Left out of the anti-communist repression of the McCarthy Era provided the political narrative. The eruption of the psychedelic avant-garde, itself heir to a radical arts tradition in the American Left, provided the cultural narrative. Both these traditions—the radical political and avant-garde cultural—fused into the Sixties Counterculture that would lead to social movements in the coming decades—Civil Rights movements, Black Liberation, Women's Liberation, Gay Liberation, and the Environmental Movement (as overarching constructs). Numerous offshoots of specific variety and cross-pollination sprung out of this vast shift in social consciousness, such as the American Indian Movement, Black Panther Party, the Chicano Movement, food conspiracies, back-to-the-land commune movement, the personal computer movement, Bioregional movement, ecology action groups, local food (and whole food) movements, community gardens, sexual freedom leagues, feminist consciousness groups, men's support groups, the yoga movement and spread of Eastern philosophies, anti-imperialist movements, anti-nuclear (weapons and power) campaigns, recycling programs, LGBTQI alliances and support groups, the underground press, underground film, underground bands, etc. (Not to mention all the forms of popular culture as the new fashions and tastes were inevitably co-opted by the capitalist mode.)

The film seen here encapsulates this history of fusion in the political and cultural realms. Berkeley In The Sixties tells the story of the spontaneous uprisings and revolts in early-to-late 1960s Berkeley that formed the narrative which would play out throughout American society in the coming period. It is now almost three decades since this film was produced (and 50+ years since the events depicted). As a historical document, it deserves wide recognition for its authenticity, veracity, and continuing relevance for understanding the ongoing "culture wars" that continue to be fought in the United States. It is especially relevant today, since the presidential election of 2016, for the perspective it provides looking back on a time when the Establishment (FBI, HUAC, and local police, most notably) carried out a concerted campaign to destroy the New Left and the Sixties Counterculture. The determination and spirit of those who resisted are perhaps more relevant today than in 1990. [—ed. 2017-02-16]

A film: Berkeley In The Sixties

Produced and Directed by Mark Kitchell, 1990. Running time: 2 hr 20 min


Index of important scenes


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