The late 1960s - Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California, United States. A boy and a girl meet in seclusion in an isolated corner of the desert and indulge in sexual and chemical experimentation. Mark (Mark Frechette) is wanted by the police for allegedly killing a policeman during a student riot, and Daria (Daria Halprin) is a property developer that is intent on helping develop land in the desert to make new homes. This turns Zabriskie Point into both a symbol of the future and a safe refuge from the outside world.
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It was like living on a powder keg.
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The Weather Underground, a smart new documentary about this legendary splinter faction, starts off at the fractious 1969 SDS meeting, and its early scenes are full of the belief, which suffused American leftists at the time, that it was just a matter of time before the military-industrial complex came crumbling down. Intellectual Todd Gitlin (one of the original founders of SDS and the most succinct critic of the Weathermen in the film) compares their beliefs to the same ideology used by Stalin and Mao, namely that when revolutionaries like the Weatherman envision a perfect society around the corner, they become convinced that in order to get there, the deaths of "ordinary people" don't count. One of the more charming and down-to-earth ex-Weathermen interviewed for the film, Brian Flanagan, puts it even more simply: "When you feel you have right on your side you can do some pretty horrific things." This paranoid mentality - which the film shows was exacerbated by the FBI's often illegal campaign against groups like the Black Panthers - explains how this group of mostly middle-class whitebread college kids went from carrying signs to building bombs.
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