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The Documentary “Berkeley in the Sixties” by Mark Kitchell Essay

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Updated: Oct 18th, 2020

What is the main argument of the video?

The main argument of the documentary Berkeley in the Sixties (directed by Mark Kitchell) is that those students, who have studied at the University of California (Berkeley) through the sixties, did contribute rather substantially towards the promotion of civil rights and freedoms in this country.

Summarize the video from start to finish

The film begins with the off-screen narrator telling the audience that throughout the sixties, the University of California remained at the forefront of people’s struggle to be in the position to take full advantage of the US Constitution’s freedom-guaranteeing provisions. According to the film, it all began in 1963, when many politically active students from this university decided to raise their voice against the policy of McCarthyism, which supposedly aimed at exposing and jailing ‘Communist agents of influence’ in America – contrary to the ‘freedom of speech’ Constitutional amendment.

As time went on, the number of students committed to the cause of promoting civil liberties in this country continued to increase exponentially. To substantiate the validity of this narrator’s claim, the film exposes viewers to the historical footage of public mass-rallies against racism, sexism, and Vietnam War, which used to be organized by political activists from the University of California throughout the period in question. According to the narrator, these rallies did prove a huge success. Because of them, the governmental officials were provided with a powerful incentive to proceed implementing much needed socio-cultural reforms in America.

The documentary’s final parts are dedicated to exploring the University’s role in the discursive legitimization of the Civil Rights movement, as well as its contribution towards the popularization of the institutionally marginalized ‘counter-cultures’ (such as the African-American one) across the US.

Does the video give time to opposing viewpoints? If so, are opposing viewpoints treated in an equal manner? Why or why not?

Berkeley in the Sixties does provide viewers with the insight into what used to drive many conservatively minded Americans to regard the University of California as the ‘Communist stronghold’ on American soil through the sixties. For example, according to Ronald Reagan (who was California’s governor at the time), the University’s continual affiliation with ‘left-wingers’ posed an acute threat to the ‘moral well-being’ of America.1

How does the documentarian use sounds, video, images, camera movements, etc. to convey their message?

The film’s visuals are concerned with the video-interviews of those University’s former students, who used to be politically active during the sixties, and the mentioned earlier video-footage of the discussed historical events. It can be confirmed that the documentary’s visual format is indeed thoroughly effective because it does prompt viewers to regard the interviews’ stories as such that represent an undisputed truth-value.

How does this video strengthen or undermine what we have discussed or read in class?

Berkeley in the Sixties does work to strengthen the validity of the conventional outlook on the social significance of the Civil Rights movement in the US – the one that we have discussed in class. After all, according to the documentary, this movement did benefit America in a variety of different ways – specifically, in the sense of making American society much more race-egalitarian. And this is exactly how students are expected to think of it.

At the same time, however, in the aftermath of having watched Kitchell’s film, one will be naturally provoked to establish parallels between the McCarthyst ‘witch-hunt’ of the sixties, on one hand, and the contemporary anti-Russian hysteria in the US, peddled by such politicians as Hillary Clinton, on the other. It is understood, of course, that this cannot result in anything else but in undermining the validity of the governmentally endorsed outlook on Russia, as such that represents one of the greatest ‘evils’ in today’s world, along with Islamic terrorism and the Ebola virus disease.

After all, just as it used to be the case with freedom-loving Americans during the McCarthyst era, many American citizens are now being ostracized on the account of their presumably ‘anti-American’ attitudes, reflected by these people’s decision to vote for Donald Trump as President.

Explain why the video was or was not engaging? Also explain why the video was or was not educationally valuable?

I personally find Berkeley in the Sixties very engaging. One of the reasons for this is that the film appeals to me emotionally, as a person who believes that it is up to ordinary American citizens to define what is good and what is bad for this country – not corrupted politicians. The discussed documentary is there to promote the ideas of humanism and tolerance – the best proof that its director does deserve to be given much credit.

There can be only a few doubts as the film’s high educational value, as well. After all, it is not only that the film addresses the described events in the historically accurate manner, but it also explains what should be deemed their lasting effect on the contemporary socio-political realities in this country. What this means is that the concerned documentary does not only contain many analytical insights into America’s comparatively recent past, but also a number of different clues as to what defines the qualitative aspects of this nation’s present.

Often when a film ends it leaves you with more questions than answers. Write down two questions you would have liked answered after watching the film

My questions are: Why has there been not even a single mass-rally held against the government’s clearly anti-constitutional practice of keeping foreigners at the Guantanamo detention camp, without charging them with any crime? How much longer will it take for the representatives of the bible-thumping ‘moral majority’ in America to drop their claim of owning this country?


Tgrlcn. “Vimeo video, 01.57.18. Web.


  1. Tgrlcn. “Berkeley in the Sixties.” Vimeo video, (00.52.32). Web.
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1. IvyPanda. "The Documentary "Berkeley in the Sixties" by Mark Kitchell." October 18, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-documentary-berkeley-in-the-sixties-by-mark-kitchell/.


IvyPanda. "The Documentary "Berkeley in the Sixties" by Mark Kitchell." October 18, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-documentary-berkeley-in-the-sixties-by-mark-kitchell/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "The Documentary "Berkeley in the Sixties" by Mark Kitchell." October 18, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-documentary-berkeley-in-the-sixties-by-mark-kitchell/.


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