The Weather Underground

Privileged youth who turned to systematic violence in an effort to stop the Vietnam War and start a revolution face the past.

Weather underground 01
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
April 27, 2004
90 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2003 San Francisco International Film Festival-Golden Gate Award, Best Documentary Feature
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2003 San Francisco Film Critics Circle -Marlon Riggs Award
  • Nominated laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2004 Academy Awards-Best Documentary Feature
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2005 American Library Association -Notable Film for Adults
  • Green samuel filmmaker bio

    Sam Green

    Sam Green received his master's degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley, where he studied documentary film with acclaimed filmmaker Marlon Riggs. His documentary The Rainbow Man/John 3:16 premiered at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival and screened at festivals worldwide, winning Grand Prize at the U.S.A. Film Festival in Dallas and Best Documentary at the Ann Arbor Film Festival and the New York and Chicago Underground Film Festivals. Green’s Pie Fight ’69 premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, where it won an honorable mention in the shorts category, and also won first prize at the Black Maria Film Festival and Best Documentary at the 2000 Chicago Underground Film Festival. Green currently lives in San Francisco and is an artist-in-residence at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Marin Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito.

    Siegel bill filmmaker bio

    Bill Siegel

    Bill Siegel has more than 20 years of experience in documentary filmmaking and education. He co-directed the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Weather Underground; was a researcher on the documentary films Muhammad Ali: The Whole Story and Hoop Dreams; and a writer on One Love, a documentary on the cultural history of basketball by Leon Gast (When We Were Kings). Siegel is vice president of school programs for the Great Books Foundation, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to literacy and lifelong learning.

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    The Film

    In October 1969, hundreds of young people wielding lead pipes and clad in football helmets marched through an upscale Chicago shopping district, pummeling parked cars and smashing shop windows. Thus began the “Days of Rage,” the first demonstration of the Weathermen, later known as the Weather Underground. Outraged by the Vietnam War and racism in America, this group of former student radicals waged a low-level war against the United States government through much of the 1970s, bombing the Capitol building, breaking Timothy Leary out of prison and finally evading the FBI by going into hiding. In The Weather Underground, former Weathermen speak frankly about the idealist passions and trajectories that transformed them from college activists into the FBI’s Most Wanted.

    The Weather Underground emerged when Dohrn and a group of fellow University of Chicago students split with the campus-run Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS, because they disagreed with the SDS’s peaceful protest tactics against the Vietnam War. Dubbing itself the Weathermen, this new organization took its name from a line in Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” — “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows” — and within months had set off bombs at the National Guard headquarters and set in motion plans to bomb targets across the country that it considered emblematic of the worldwide violence sanctioned by the U.S. government.

    Using extensive archival material such as photographs, film footage and FBI documents, The Weather Underground chronicles the Weathermen’s public rise and fall and offers a rare insider look into the group’s private conflicts. Fueled by righteous anger, these white, middle-class students were also widely criticized for their controversial — some say misguided — politics. Ultimately, the Weathermen's carefully organized, clandestine network managed to successfully dodge the FBI for years, although the group's members would eventually reemerge to life in a country that was dramatically different than the one they had hoped their efforts would inspire.