Regardless of whether you are liberal or conservative, Americans are generally apathetic when it comes to politics and current events. Most people you speak with on the street are disturbingly unknowledgeable about what goes on in our world and many of them do not care to know because they find it either boring or depressing. What struck me about The War at Home, an Academy Award-nominated documentary about the Vietnam War protest movement of the 1960s and ’70s, is how involved people, particularly college students, were in politics.

The War at Home is not liberal propaganda by any means. The filmmakers, Barry Alexander Brown and Glenn Silber, incorporate raw footage of the growing anti-war movement in the U.S. to depict how the Vietnam War was affecting the American population. It focuses on the war movement’s development at the University of Wisconsin in Madison from the mid 60’s to the 1970s when Nixon ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam. The filmmakers fairly balance the views of the student protestors with the views of those who opposed the movement through interviews with principal figures. As this film was released only a few short years after the war ended, the interviewees still bear the emotions and fresh recollections of their involvement in the movement.

The parallels between the anti-Vietnam War movement and the controversies of our current conflict in the Middle East are obvious. What really struck me in watching The War at Home is how, despite many students’ beliefs that their protests would likely be ignored by the government, they continued their protests because of how strong they felt in their beliefs. In contrast, those who oppose U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan merely bitch about their views on the internet and put a bumper sticker on their car. No longer do you see passion and conviction. Instead, you see disenchantment with the ability of the people to change their government. To clarify, I am not advocating the liberal nor conservative agenda. I am simply arguing that regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, you should give a shit about what your government is doing and you should take action if you don’t like its policies. Unfortunately, too many people in this country, both liberal and conservative, believe they are powerless against their government and that is not true.

The War at Home is an incisive and engaging chronicle of the steps people took to make their government hear them out. I did not agree with some of the tactics the students used (i.e. the bombing of a university building that caused the death of a graduate student), but its interesting to see to what degree the student population was willing to go to effectuate their goals. This film is also a wonderful time capsule of the anti-war movement that shows us a different time period that dealt with global issues not unlike our own. Personally, I was unaware that there were any significant anti-war movements in Madison, Wisconsin as you usually hear of the movements that occurred in Berkeley. In that regard, this film is educational as well as engaging.

Roger Ebert regards The War at Home as one of the most important political documentaries ever made and I would agree with him. The level of detail the filmmakers went into to depict this time period is thorough to say the least. As a result, you get a very complete picture of the whole anti-Vietnam War movement based on the events that occurred in one school. I recommend you check this film out, especially if you are into history or politics or if you simply want to see a well-made movie.

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