Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Camden 28 DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Vietnam Era Legal Case Revisited by Documentary on DVD

By 1971, the sentiment of the majority of Americans had swung to the side of the burgeoning antiwar movement, given the great number of boys returning home in body bags from Vietnam. Among those moved to civil disobedience was a group of Catholic conscientious objectors based in New Jersey.
Led by four priests who were as outraged by the human toll the conflict was taking on the non-combatants as on our soldiers, the clergymen and company asked themselves, “What do you do when you see a child on fire in a war that was a mistake? Write a letter?”
Taking to heart God’s commandment that “Thou shalt not kill,” the group decided that they needed to do something more than picket or sign a petition. The tactic they settled on was to break into a Selective Service office in order to shred any draft documents they could find.
Even though they joked about the possibility of there being a Judas in their midst, what they did not know, however, was that a member of their cell was, in fact, an FBI mole named Bob Hardy. Thus, when they hatched their plan in the wee hours of August 22nd, a dragnet of agents descended on them before they could do any damage.
Nonetheless, the intruders and all the members of their support team were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit Federal crimes which would saddle them with sentences of up to 47 years each, if convicted on all counts. Dubbed the Camden 28, the accused mounted a spirited defense which appealed for a jury nullification of the charges based on the theories that the Vietnam War was both illegal and immoral and that the plot would never have been attempted without the involvement of the FBI, since its infiltrator had provided practically all the tools they were relying on to carry it out.
Directed by Anthony Giacchino, The Camden 28 combines archival footage with wistful remembrances by some of the surviving participants to yield a surprisingly timely reminder that peace is as every bit as patriotic an option as war.
Furthermore, in revisiting the oppressive measures employed by the FBI via its COINTELPRO program during that era’s reign of terror, the viewer is simultaneously treated to a welcome message about the right, if not the duty, to challenge authority, especially in the face of corruption, intransigence and utter arrogance. Bring back the Sixties, man!

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 83 minutes
Studio: First Run Video
DVD Extras: Bonus archival footage, multiple interviews, Camden 28 reunion, Howard Zinn essay and a filmmaker bio.

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