“The four-hour documentary is a celebration of the intellectual environment (and aesthetic beauty) of the Berkeley campus, showcasing star instructors teaching classes in a variety of fields to bright and engaged undergraduates. These scenes, characterized by a certain quality of timelessness, are spliced alongside scenes of administrators’ meetings on how to manage the budget crisis. […]
The crisis at the California universities, therefore, has been as much a crisis of administrative priorities as it has been a crisis of the state budget. And by repressing student and worker protests on the campuses, which were arguably the most effective form of pressure on legislators, administrators actually made it less likely that higher levels of funding would be forthcoming from the state. In fact, the administration has consistently played the role of enforcer of UC’s privatization through the use of police violence and legal repression.
But Wiseman’s film lacks any context for understanding the dual crisis of university administration priorities and social welfare state retrenchment during the financial crisis. Without this context, the dramatic high-point of the film – a student protest directed at campus administrators – reads as little more than a misguided non-sequitur. This is an egregious oversight on Wiseman’s part, but one that should not have been difficult to anticipate — he basically embedded his film crew with the administration, producing a film that reads more like an advertisement put out by the university’s public relations department than a serious political documentary.”