‘The Five Demands’ Documentary Immortalizes a City College Campus Forgotten Story

CITY COLLEGE–At a recent City College of New York (CCNY) press conference, filmmaker Greta Schiller spoke about the production of her latest documentary, ‘The Five Demands.’ The film documents the story of a CCNY student strike in 1969 that became part of the Civil Rights Movement and American education.

At the time, City College was predominantly white, an institution considered the “Harvard of the proletariat.” Though located in the heart of a Black and Puerto Rican community, Harlem residents felt unwelcome. This sparked anger in the students of color who did attend the college. In April of 1969, a group of them mobilized to shut down the college and demand values that reflected those of the community it had excluded. Some may wonder why they haven’t heard of these historic events— and they wouldn’t be alone. “I had been here in the 70s as a student,” said Schiller, who co-directed and produced the film with Andrea Weiss, who runs the MFA film program at CCNY. “This [story] had not just been lost but erased. The board of trustees who ran CUNY did not want to celebrate this at the time.”