Day 13 – Documentary on Patty Hearst
Tonight I went to see Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst. This movie was free and screened at Café Ambrosia, a downtown coffee shop. I’ve never been there before. In fact, I’ve never even noticed it before, but then I’m not much of a coffee shop person since I don’t actually drink coffee. Anyway, it turned out my friend Lorin worked there.
The movie was shown in the slightly weird and creepy basement. It didn’t help that I got there after the movie started and the lights were off. To add to my discomfort I ended up sitting surrounded by a bunch of old men, one of which smelled really bad and another who was chewing gum the whole time (I know I’ve mentioned this before but I HATE mouth/chewing noises). Also, it’s a good thing Katie didn’t go with me because the chairs were super uncomfortable and would have killed her back.
Anyway, the movie itself was super good. It was actually a part of the PBS series “The American Experience.” While going in I did know the basics of the Hearst story – kidnappee turned bank robber – I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t know that much about the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). I didn’t know that they were formed after Donald DeFreeze escaped from prison, or that they murdered Marcus Foster (an African-American school superintendent), all before they kidnapped Hearst. I also didn’t know that after they kidnapped her they demanded that her family give millions of dollars worth of free food to the poor.
I had never realized just how long Hearst stayed with them. After she was with them for 59 days the SLA sent a tape recording to the press of Hearst saying that she chose to stay with them and fight for freedom and against oppression. After 71 days she helped them rob a bank. After 592 days Hearst was arrested.
While she was being booked she told police that her occupation was urban guerrilla. She then claimed that she was kept in a closet until the first robbery and that she didn’t know what she was doing. She was sentenced to seven years in prison. She was released after 22 months when then President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence.
Overall, I thought the movie was kind of pro-SLA, but still very good. The makers of the film, which was made in 2005, ended it with footage from Hearst on a British talk show looking glamorous and talking about how great her childhood was. I’m not sure what the point was of concluding the film that way. I did, however, really like the movie and it did teach me a lot about Hearst and the SLA.
They didn’t include the fact that in recent years Hearst has appeared in self-referential and self-mocking roles in film and television. I don’t know, given how bad of an actor she is, maybe she was telling the truth about everything.
Tomorrow night at 7pm, Katie and I are going to a talk at the Botanical Gardens about beekeeping if anyone wants to join us!