The Camden 28

PBS Premiere: Sept. 11, 2007Check the broadcast schedule »

Ask the Filmmaker

Molly from Alaska asks: I was 22 years old at the time of the actions of the Camden 28, and I remember well the passionate protestors and resistors of the Vietnam War. Now, the Iraq War seems to echo parts of the Vietnam War. As a young person, do you see or hear of the same passion among your generation in protesting the war? If not, why not?

Anthony Giacchino: This is a question that comes up every time I show the film. When it comes to protesting against the current war, I'm convinced that the major difference between today's generation and the Vietnam generation is the draft. Like Father Doyle said in the film, the draft was the way the war came into your community and took your son (or brother, friend, etc). It may not be an exaggeration to say that there was hardly a person in America who didn't know someone in danger of going to Vietnam. The same just isn't true with Iraq. I'm sure this has blunted anti-war activism among members of the younger generations.

Kristina from Pennsylvania asks: Thank you for making the film. Among other things, I was interested in the part of the story involving the informant Bob Hardy. Do you think Hardy could have better served justice by approaching his friends first and talking to them about the fact that he didn't agree with their desire to break into federal property and break the law, rather than alerting the FBI?

Giacchino: Well, it's interesting to note that the very day after Mike Giocondo asked Bob Hardy to join the group, Hardy went to the FBI. I've always believed he should have done what you ask in your question. But Bob told me that he was concerned about his friends in Camden (notably Mike Giocondo and Father Doyle) and that he didn't like the idea of the "outsiders" -- like John Grady -- coming into the city and getting his friends into potential trouble. So from his point of view, that's why he went to the FBI: to protect his friends. But there is one other thing that didn't make it into the film that is important. The weekend before the break-in, the group conducted a dry run on the target. The FBI knew about this and told Hardy that they would arrest the activists that night. The dry run went forward and about 40 FBI agents were there to arrest them, but it never happened. Hardy asked his contact agents the next day why they weren't arrested, and one told him that a decision had been made at "the little White House in California" (Nixon's residence) to let them break in and destroy the files. So, Hardy knew for a whole week that they would be arrested during the break-in, not the dry run. That's where some of the Camden 28 fault him - at that point, he knew they would all be arrested. He could have told them, but he didn't.

Sara from New Mexico asks: I learned a lot from The Camden 28. I read that you used to work for the History Channel. Did you study history? Do you think you'll continue to make documentaries about historical events, or do you think you'll work on documentaries or fictional films about contemporary events in the future?

Giacchino: Although I had always been interested in films, growing up, it was never my plan to become a documentary filmmaker. I wanted to become a university history professor. After graduating from Villanova with degrees in German and History, I lived in Germany for two years -- one year of study and one year teaching English -- and upon my return, I just wasn't ready to go back to school. The History Channel was about to launch at the same time, and I applied for a job there and got one based on my history background. So it was there that I gained my technical experience. I'm sure that I'll continue to make documentaries about historical events -- history is what interests me the most, specifically topics that tell stories about the past but still have resonance and meaning for us today.

Marcus from North Dakota asks: Are you involved in any anti-war protests? What do you think average citizens can do to bring our troops home from Iraq?

Giacchino: Yes. I went to all of the major demonstrations leading up to the war in Iraq. Many times I was there with members of the Camden 28 (you see some of that footage in the film) and they were all struck at the large numbers of people who showed up before the war even began, especially because during Vietnam, it took many years for the anti-war movement to grow. But as far as what an average citizen can do today to bring home the troops from Iraq, I'll just paraphrase what Father Doyle said when he responded to the very same question after a screening of the film in New York City: Do not stop talking about it and acting on it. Tell your members of Congress and your state representatives that you want the troop out of Iraq now. Be sure to encourage others to do so too: family, friends, co-workers. And if you're looking for more serious actions against the war, in the tradition of the Camden 28, see if there are any Catholic Worker communities near you and talk with them. They are always raising protest to the next level. It's worth keeping in mind that five weeks after the Camden 28 trial ended, the draft was abolished.