I just got through watching an absolutely riveting, edge-of-your-seat documentary on PBS’s series “American Experience.” “Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst” tells the story of how an underground radical group, the Symbionese Liberation Army, kidnapped the newspaper heiress, who for a while claimed she had joined the SLA and taken the name “Tania.” A security camera photo of her holding an automatic weapon during a bank robbery became an iconic image of the 1970s.
Later, Hearst was successfully able to convince authorities that she was a victim of fear and “Stockholm syndrome,” not a true accomplice; her prison sentence was commuted by Jimmy Carter and she received a pardon from Bill Clinton. The documentary concludes with a glamorous-looking Hearst as a celebrity guest on a British talk show.
I was 12 and 13 when the Patty Hearst saga was taking place; I remember a vague outline of it but none of the gripping detail which was brought out in this documentary. Several key SLA members, who had been released after serving their jail terms for kidnapping Hearst, were arrested again and tried in 1999 for a murder committed during a bank robbery of that period.
As I watched, I kept wondering why Spike Lee hasn’t done anything with this story; it really seems like his milieu.