Directed by Lynne Sachs • Documentary • With Daniel Berrigan, Philip Berrigan • 2001 • 45 minutes
"Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house... The time is past when good men can remain silent, when obedience can segregate men from public risk, when the poor can die without defense."
— The Catonsville Nine
On May 17, 1968 nine Vietnam War protesters, including a nurse, an artist and three priests, walked into a Catonsville, Maryland draft board office, grabbed hundreds of selective service records and incinerated them with homemade napalm.
INVESTIGATION OF A FLAME is an intimate look at this unlikely, disparate band of resisters - the Catonsville Nine as they came to be known - who broke the law in a poetic act of civil disobedience. The publicity and news coverage from the ensuing trial helped galvanize an increasingly disillusioned American public.
INVESTIGATION OF A FLAME explores this protest - an action more common in the 1960's - within in the context of these extremely different times, times in which foes of Middle East peace agreements, abortion and technology resort to violence to access the public imagination.
Filmmaker Lynne Sachs has combined long unseen archival footage with a series of informal interviews of Daniel Berrigan, Philip Berrigan, Howard Zinn, John Hogan, Tom Lewis, and Marjorie and Tom Melville to encourage viewers to ponder the relevance of such events today.
"This is a documentary about the protest events that made Catonsville, Maryland, an unpretentious suburb... a flash point for citizens resistance at the height of the war." —New York Times