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A newspaper heiress is kidnapped, brainwashed, and forced to join a group of terrorist bank robbers in this docudrama, based on the saga of Patricia Hearst. In 1974, Hearst (Natasha Richardson), the granddaughter of publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, was a student at the University of California.
On February 4, members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a radical political group, broke into the Berkeley home she shared with her boyfriend and kidnapped her. Hearst then allegedly spent 57 days locked in a closet as she was indoctrinated into the group's revolutionary beliefs by their charismatic leader, Cinque (Ving Rhames).
Eventually, Hearst joined (or at least pretended to join) the SLA, adopted the name Tania and participated in a number of high-profile bank robberies. After several SLA members died in a police fire storm, Hearst and fellow members Bill and Emily Harris (William Forsythe and Frances Fisher) went on the lam and were later arrested.
Although she claimed her participation in the group was a ruse carried out to protect herself from further rape, torture, and mind control, Hearst eventually served several years in prison after her 1976 conviction for bank robbery.
Based on the novel Every Secret Thing, Hearst's own account of the events, Paul Schrader's film tells the story from the heiress' own viewpoint, with little in the way of conflicting evidence.
After President Carter ordered her release from prison in 1979, Hearst went on to act in several films, including Cecil B. Demented, a John Waters spoof whose plot bears some resemblance to her own life story.