For the writer-director-producer, who has gone on to direct popular TV shows such as “Lost” and “Prison Break,” University of California, Berkeley was more than just another college, it was a place where he discovered truth.
“I realized Berkeley was the place where it was really happening and active,” says Roth.
Within a two-year time span Roth, who was once an immature and naive straight edge student, became radicalized and participated in protests against injustice in and outside America, and did what some of my peers are too sluggish to do; he helped make a difference.
Between the late ’60s and the early ’70s America wasn’t in great shape. It had entered Vietnam, and its people were losing their greatest political leaders. What’s more, it was around this time that Roth grasped a new meaning on life and became an activist. As an ode to his experience while at Berkeley, Roth created Berkeley, a film that captures the essence of his extreme transformation from what he once was before entering the prestigious school to what he had become.
For fear of being drafted to Vietnam, an innocent 18-year-old Ben Sweet (Nick Roth) decides to go to a different venue, Berkeley. Sweet, who had yet to lose his virginity, replaces his purity with reality.
He begins to submerge himself into the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll culture to become part of America’s counterculture. He rebels against his father and everything he once stood for.
When writing this film, Roth knew Sweet had to be played by his son, Nick.
“I wrote this film for Nick,” says Roth. “I saw myself in my son, young and innocent.”
Lead character Sweet is a combination Roth and his son, he tells, oblivious to the politics of the world around him.
Roth wanted to show Nick how much life had improved since the late ’60s, so the adolescents in the film are schooled about what life was like when birth control came onto the scene. Within the two years it took to make this film, the two absorbed the ’60s by watching Woodstock documentaries and listening to music from that decade.
Like father like son, Nick is currently a student a UC Berkeley.
Berkeley empowered Bobby Roth. The campus gave him a unique perspective and let him see the world differently than he once did.
As it did for Sweet, Roth too became self aware via the oppositional crowd at Berkeley. He knew that things weren’t right, and he did something about it.
This film helped Roth rediscover himself, he explains.
“I saw my life repeating itself throughout the filming,” he says.
And to this day Roth says that if it weren’t for the student protests, the Vietnam war would not have ended when it did.
Berkeley releases in select theaters Oct. 12.