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The Five Demands
Directed by Greta Schiller and Andrea Weiss
Produced by Stanley Nelson
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THE FIVE DEMANDS is a riveting story about the student strike that changed the face of higher education forever. In April 1969, a small group of Black and Puerto Rican students shut down the City College of New York, an elite public university located in the heart of Harlem. Fueled by the revolutionary fervor sweeping the nation, the strike soon turned into an uprising, leading to the extended occupation of the campus, classes being canceled, students being arrested, and the resignation of the college president.

Through archival footage and modern-day interviews, we follow the students’ struggle against the institutional racism that, for over a century, had shut out people of color from this and other public universities. The Five Demands revisits the untold story of this explosive student takeover, and proves that a handful of ordinary citizens can band together to take action and effect meaningful change. 

“Their films are deep, informative, and highly entertaining.” —LA Weekly

“Greta Schiller and Andrea Weiss prove that savvy, relentless research can have a spectacular payoff.” —B. Ruby Rich, film critic

“THE FIVE DEMANDS presents a captivating look at the student strike that forever changed higher education. As the United States faces the possible rollback of affirmative action, the inspiring tale of the CUNY student movement is a powerful reminder of the value of determination and united effort in pursuing social justice.” —Overly Honest Movie Reviews

“Recommended! The film has a broader appeal that would likely be of interest to many, especially those living in New York City.” —Educational Media Reviews Online

“Feels more pressing than ever.” —Hyperallergic

“The film’s timing couldn’t be better, with the release occurring just as the U.S. Supreme Court ended race-conscious admissions practices at colleges and universities, stoking debates about diversity. The Five Demands takes care to show not just that representation at CCNY was lopsided, but why, and the arguments that the film depicts over who should have access to the school will resonate with anyone who has followed the fights over 'academic merit' in admissions to colleges and high schools. The film also raises implicit questions about the differences between the past and the present—and what would need to happen to galvanize a similar movement today.” —Diverse Education

“These figures brought powerful antiracist, feminist views to the Black and Puerto Rican student body, offering the students the space to recognize the intellectual rigor of their own experiences. The film weaves in illuminating moments from seminars, where SEEK students reflect on their places as second-class citizens in a country that their ancestors built… The Five Demands shows not only how hard those students worked to change their institution to create a more equal world but also how far we are from realizing their vision of radical inclusion. It is a reminder that a vision of education for all is not a pipe dream. Despite the many obstacles, it is our responsibility today to fight for the higher education system that we deserve.” —Nonprofit Quarterly

Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking, ROXFILM2023
Pan African Film Festival 2023
American Black Film Festival 2023

74 minutes / Color/B&W
Closed Captioned
Release: 2023
Copyright: 2023

For individual consumers (home video)

This DVD is sold for private, home use only.

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
African-Americans, Education, Civil Rights, Racism, Social Movements

Related Links:
Study Guide Available in Adobe PDF Format

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