Back in my student days it didn’t matter whether it focused on the entire world, the United States, Minnesota or even my hometown – history was never my subject.
So when I was given the opportunity to take in the locally-produced documentary “The Dinkytown Uprising” I was hesitant. But I finally relented and decided it would give me a chance to branch out a bit (I don’t watch a lot of documentaries) and learn a thing or two about a piece of Minneapolis history.
Directed by Daniel Geiger and Al Milgrom (who also shot the original footage), the film focuses on the 1970 40-day, 40-night occupation of Dinkytown by young community members rebelling against fast food chain Red Barn Restaurant.
That’s right, while students on campuses around the nation (including those at the University of Minnesota) were protesting the Vietnam War and the Cambodian Campaign, mourning the killings at Kent State University and burning draft cards, a group took to the streets of Dinkytown and set up shop in buildings that were tagged for economic redevelopment.
Yes, that’s a broad generalization of what happened and this smaller, more localized protest was simply a microcosm of what was going on politically across the nation, that’s kind of the feeling that’s portrayed throughout the film.
It comes in at around 95 minutes. Had the filmmakers expanded it out to a full 120 minutes, I think it would have allowed them to dig a bit deeper and make the subjects a bit more sympathetic. Most of the time they come off as young, misdirected kids that wanted to be a part of something big, but had no idea how to do it. Maybe that’s the point, but it doesn’t have that feel.
There are, however, a couple of areas where the film really excels – cinematography and wrapping up the narrative of the story’s key figures.
The footage that Milgrom recorded during that time was outstanding. It really did give you a close-up glimpse of the protesters and their interactions with each other, Minneapolis officials and Red Barn representatives. During the protests of today, you simply wouldn’t be able to obtain shots like this – they’d all be 20-second Vine recordings recorded shakily on a smartphone.
While the narrative of “Uprising” comes off as thin at times, the follow-up interviews conducted with some of the key players are outstanding. It’s interesting to see what became of the kids and young adults that 45 years took over a neighborhood for more than a month. I won’t go into it, as it really is a high point for the film.
“The Dinkytown Uprising” is not going to be for everyone, but for anyone with an interest in local history, locally-produced films or simply seeing what Dinkytown looked like 45 years ago, it’s definitely worth a watch.
“The Dinkytown Uprising” continues through Thursday, June 4, at the Film Society at St. Anthony Main Theatre in Minneapolis.
★★½ of ★★★★★