Seeing Red: The Stories of American Communists, Directed by Klein and Reichert

The fascinating documentary Seeing Red: The Stories of American Communists provides a very sympathetic portrayal of the political activities of a group of former Communists–and a few current party members– all of whom came of age during the 1930s.

Filmmakers James Klein and Julie Reichert, themselves veterans of the New Left, have frankly admitted that they sought political lessons from the collapse of the Old Left.

Their movie has been used for fund-raising around the country by the “Democratic Socialists of America.”

The Communist Party has complained that Seeing Red adopted the political perspective of the John Gates “wing” of the Party, which largely left in the late 1950s, and has criticized the movie for leaving the impression that the present-day CPUSA is no longer relevant.

When the film was released, at the height of President Ronald Reagan’s popularity, the subject seemed too controversial, given Hollywood’s history regarding Communism and the directors’ nonjudgmental but compassionate approach to their subject.

Having to distribute their own film theatrically was almost as unexpected for the directors–who lived in Ohio with their baby daughter–as the Oscar nomination. “I did everything from preparing the fliers to being on television to striking the deal to helping make the trailer–everything!” Reichert said at the time.

Klein and Reichert decided to open their film at the New Yorker theater, partly because they believe that some of their potential audience was to be found on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Seeing Red received respectful reviews and was nominated for an Oscar Award for Best Documentary.

Previously, the filmmakers have co-directed another Oscar-nominated documentary, Union Maids.

Running Time: 87 minutes