Seeing Red: Stories of American Communists (1983)

Genres - History  |   Sub-Genres - Biography, Politics & Government, Social History  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

As with many documentaries, Seeing Red is likely to provoke enormously varying reactions among viewers, based in this instance largely upon their political leanings. Although the political bent of its filmmakers cannot be known (although assumptions can be made), the personal sympathies of James Klein and Julie Reichert clearly lie with their subjects. In other words, whether the creators agree with their subjects' decision to support (or to continue to support) Communism, Klein and Reichert admire their courage and commitment, and respond on an emotional level to the difficulties (and often tragedies) that befell many as a result of these beliefs – all of which makes for many touching and revealing moments. For example, there's a terribly affecting sequence in which a former Communist Party member is dismissing and denigrating his youthful involvement with the cause. When, a few moments later, he reads a letter written to his wife while involved with the Party, he is filled with emotion remembering the passion that filled and left a mark on his life during that tumultuous period. This and similar tender, evocative moments are contrasted with tales of horror and with ironic use of footage involving both propaganda and "witch hunts" that produce a chilling effect. Although the film doesn't go far enough into some areas that it might have – such as the Hitler-Stalin pact or the Stalin purges – it's still a powerful and haunting documentary.