This film is one of the first comprehensive looks at the student movement of the 1960s as seen from the Berkeley campus. A small student movement becomes a cause celebré when the House Un-American Activities shows a film on campuses across the country about the "communist spies" on the Berkeley campus. Far from having the desired effect, students from all over the country flock to Berkeley to get in on the revolution.
Through interviews and archival footage, the film shows the development of the Free Speech Movement, Civil Rights demonstrations, sit-ins, arrests, riots, the rise of the Black Panthers and the anti-war movement. Director Kitchell also focuses on the mistakes, indiscretions and misjudgements of the students. Familiar faces, now looking impossibly young also appear: Joan Baez and Allen Ginsberg, among others. Sometimes bloody, the film also shows the humour in the revolution. A Black Panther relates how he and his colleagues raised money to buy weapons by buying Mao's Little Red Book in Chinatown for twenty cents and selling the copies on the Berkeley campus for a dollar "We didn't even read it, man!"
Berkeley In The Sixties is instrumental in illustrating how society and government has been shaped since the sixties. Indeed, one of the "stars" of the film, the then governor of California Ronald Reagan, has certainly gone places since denouncing students for having parties at which "rock'n'roll bands play and movies are shown on two screens at the same time!"
Other key figures however have kept the flame of their activism burning. The great achievement of this epic doco is to counter the popular notion that 60s counter-culture amounted to nothing. Kitchell finds his subjects as politically active today as they were over 20 years ago - only the size and scope of their interests have changed.
- Best Documentary, 1989 Park City Festival
- Audience Award, 1990 United States Film Festival