September 25, 2020
The 1968 antiwar uprising at Columbia University is well known. But as Paul Cronin’s new 15-hour film shows, while the white students focused on Vietnam, the black students’ concerns are still urgent today
‘We had the dust of radicalism sprinkled on us that night’ – an epic documentary of black student protest
‘Lockdown has done wonders for me,” says Paul Cronin with a laugh. An English film-maker who lives in New York, he had been working off and on for 14 years on A Time to Stir, a documentary about the 1968 student uprising at Columbia University. Then, after the killing of George Floyd in May, Cronin’s Greenwich Village neighbourhood was transformed. protesters marched through its streets, statues were defaced, the windows of galleries and banks were smashed, police cars were torched, helicopters roared night and day. It was an extended moment of rebellion and release, terror and possibility.
“I’m watching what’s going on from my window and taking lots of late-night walks through Washington Square with all the wildness and craziness going on there.” Struck by the parallels between the archival footage on his computer screen and present-day convulsions, he went into overdrive, only coming up for air after he had completed the film.
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