A review of the new film ‘Beyond Bars.’

By Ed Rampell, The Progressive

Activist filmmaker Robert Greenwald’s compelling new film, Beyond Barsis a documentary about Chesa Boudin, San Francisco’s left-leaning district attorney who was deposed by a recall campaign in 2022 after only about eighteen months in office. Through the frame of Chesa’s zigzagging backstory, Greenwald touches upon many pressing issues: mass incarceration, racism, grassroots political campaigning, the influence of big money in elections, childhood, parenting, and more. But the discerning eye will also discover that Greenwald—who helmed Hollywood’s 2000 biopic Steal This Movie about Yippie Abbie Hoffman—has now also directed a gripping elegy of the radical New Left.

brave new films beyond bars

Chesa Boudin is arguably the scion of America’s “First Family of the Far Left.” His grandfather was the renowned defense attorney Leonard Boudin, whose clients included Paul Robeson, Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, peace activist Dr. Benjamin Spock, antiwar clergymen William Sloane Coffin and Philip Berrigan, and many others. Chesa’s mother and father, Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, were members of the extremist Weather Underground and were imprisoned for their roles in the Brinks armored car robbery that left two police officers and a security guard dead north of Manhattan in 1981.

With both parents incarcerated, their radical comrades, Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers—the so-called “domestic terrorists” whom Sarah Palin claimed in 2008 had “palled around with” Barack Obama—raised Chesa. Chesa’s parents had left the toddler with a babysitter to participate in the Brinks heist to raise funds for the Black Liberation Army, since, as Gilbert dryly notes on screen, advocates of armed struggle “usually don’t get grants from the Rockefeller Foundation.”

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Register to host a screening of BEYOND BARS

During an election year with over two million Americans currently incarcerated, BEYOND BARS exposes the continuing impact of white supremacy, all through the powerful story of former San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin and his family. Organize and mobilize with us!

  Click below to register to host a screening of the film.  Host a Screening