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The War at Home (1979 film)

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The War at Home
Directed byGlenn Silber
Barry Alexander Brown[1]
Produced byGlenn Silber
Barry Alexander Brown[2]
Narrated byBlake Kellogg
CinematographyDan Lerner, Richard March
Edited byChuck France
Distributed byNew Front Films
Release date
  • 1979 (1979)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States

The War at Home is a documentary film about the anti-war movement in the Madison, Wisconsin, area during the time of the Vietnam War.[3] It combines archival footage and interviews with participants that explore the events of the period on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.[4]


The film focuses on student protests of government policies in the Vietnam War, clashes between students and police, and the responses of politicians and the public to the turmoil.[5] Among the major events included is the Sterling Hall bombing. Intended to destroy the Army Math Research Center in the building, the bombing also caused massive destruction to other parts of the building, resulting in the death of a physics researcher, Robert Fassnacht, who was not involved in the Army Math Research Center. Bomber Karleton Armstrong, brother of Dwight Armstrong, is interviewed for the film, as is Paul Soglin, an antiwar leader who went on to be mayor of Madison.

Reception and legacy[edit]

It earned an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature nomination.[6]

Dialogue from The War at Home was used as samples in the song “Thieves” by the band Ministry[7] on the 1989 album The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste.[8]

Viewing the film after its recent restoration, Peter Canby writes in The New Yorker:

The film covers the period from 1963—when the earliest demonstrators wore jackets and ties, in some cases smoked pipes, and attended teach-ins—to 1973. Along the way, there is extensive footage from dramatic Madison developments, including a police attack on antiwar demonstrators who had seized a campus building to protest the visit of Dow Chemical recruiters to campus. (Dow was the maker of napalm.) In that episode, the police clubbed—pretty much unprovoked—anyone they could get their hands on. In an unintentionally humorous moment, captured on film, a sociology professor named Maurice Zeitlin remembers students rushing in and asking him to talk sense to the police. Zeitlin runs out of his office, only to be clubbed from behind.[9]

Bill Siegel, director of The Trials of Muhammad Ali, was inspired to become a filmmaker after seeing the film.[10]


In 2018, the film was restored in 4K by IndieCollect and re-released.[11]


  1. ^ "The War at Home (1979) - Overview - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2019-01-27.
  2. ^ 1980|Oscars.org
  3. ^ Film Restoration Initiative
  4. ^ "NY Times: The War at Home". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-03-31. Retrieved 2008-11-16.
  5. ^ Review: Restored version of 1979 documentary ‘The War at Home’ shows necessity of protest - Los Angeles Times
  6. ^ William Shatner and Persis Khambatta present Documentary Oscars in 1980. Oscars – via YouTube.
  7. ^ Thieves by Ministry - Topic on YouTube
  8. ^ "List of Ministry Samples". Prongs.org. Retrieved 2010-10-22.
  9. ^ Canby, Peter (12 October 2018). "The Classic Vietnam-Era Documentary The War at Home and its Lessons of Nonviolence". The New Yorker. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  10. ^ "Playback: Barry Alexander Brown and Glenn Silber's 'The War at Home'". International Documentary Association. Retrieved 2018-07-20.
  11. ^ Canby, Peter (2018-10-12). "The Classic Vietnam-Era Documentary "The War at Home" and Its Lessons of Nonviolence". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-01-27.

External links[edit]