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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Political > Investigation Of A Flame – A Documentary Portrait Of The Catonville Nine (Political)

Investigation Of A Flame – A Documentary Portrait Of The Catonville Nine (Political)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Film: B-



Protesters are always portrayed as “Godless” and “Communist” and as “traitors” by the ignorant, but the interesting case of The Catonville Nine, who included three priests among those who went into a Draft office in Maryland on May 17, 1968 and used homemade napalm to burn hundreds of selective service records is different.  Howard Zinn joins in the too-short 45 minutes about the then and now of it all.


Of course, long after the U.S. Draft was officially abolished, they were all still wanted people and this is even though decades later so many have been pardoned, especially draft dodgers.  They were not even connected to the big organized fronts, but the act of doing this was so daring and subversive that they are even happy into their twilight years to be criminals.  Though not the big ka-boom political film we have had lately, there is something to be said for its subtly.  However, I wish it was longer.


Director Lynne Sachs treats this with the proper sensitivity and brings up one last point.  When showing it to special audiences, she gets the obligatory (and obvious self-censorship) question about what kind of example this is setting for children.  I’ll save her response for the viewer, but it is one of the most ignorant questions anyone can ask, whether they realize it or not.  Isn’t it just a backhanded way of telling someone to “shut-up” so they can tell everyone else to do the same?  Why help people this self-hating?  Just because children see this does not mean they’ll do it, but those who think children are this stupid think the same of adults, so just imagine their opinion of people in general.  That is why speaking up is important and doing something sometimes is the right thing.  The Catonville Nine did more harm than good in the long run and would not have had to do what they did in the first place if so many things were right in the first place.


The 1.33 X 1 image varies throughout originating on analog NTSC videotape with stills, Super 8mm film and black and white news footage.  The editing is not bad and is always interesting for its short length.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is simple and sometimes the audio is undeniably boosted mono, but it works fine for what it is.  The only extra is a five minutes long update about the principles and all are worth a look.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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