Making Sense of the 60s and 70s

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Making Sense of the 60s and 70s
While the filmmakers of the direct cinema and cinema verite persuasions were busy focusing

  • on cultural events such as rock concerts;

  • and on what Thomas Waugh calls

"easy targets" of scorn or ridicule,
American and global societies were undergoing

massive social, political and cultural changes, tremors, and revolutions.

Waugh suggests that

the conventions and pretensions of verite and direct cinema were simply not equal to these revolutions…

or at least the key verite and direct cinema filmmakers were not willing to employ them to these political ends.
Here's a 15 minute tour of those times…
Many young documentary filmmakers in the 60s and 70s were very naturally

drawn to or influenced by these movements and events,

as well as to the new possibilities of documentary film as a

  • political tool,

  • and a way of fostering a new social and political consciousness and change.

  • Not all that dissimilar from Vertov...

(It's interesting that even Hollywood wasn't exempt from the cultural shifts happening during these times.
A new generation of young filmmakers and film producers such as

  • Francis Coppola,

  • Martin Scorsese,

  • Arthur Penn,

  • Dennis Hopper,

  • Robert Evans,

  • Bob Rafaelson,

began making and producing highly personal films that pushed the boundaries of traditional screen subjects

…films with a definite undertone of political and social, and generational awareness…)
Films such as Easy Rider and Bonny and Clyde revelled in the anti-establishment outsider…
(if you want to learn more about these bad boys, check out Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: how the sex-drugs-and-rock'n'roll generation saved Hollywood -- both the book by Peter Biskind and the doc made from the book)
The documentary traditions and conventions of the 1970's were also undergoing changes.
If late 60s and 70s filmmakers rejected verite's

political disengagement and hands-off cinematic strategies,

they also rejected earlier traditions such as the Brit Doc Movement and the films of the New Deal that DID seek social and poltical engagement.
Where the Griersonian tradition viewed social problems and the dispossessed

from a privileged position -- the powerful attempting to use film to lift the weak from the mire--

these filmmakers tended to represent what Nichols characterizes as "history from below." -- from the point of view of historically marginalized community.
Where the Griersonian tradition and the tradition of the American Depression Filmmakers looked toward centralized power of governments to develop solutions to social ills,

many 60's filmmakers consciously questioned or openly opposed the policies and practices of the State.

And where leftwing filmmakers on the left in the 1930s often filled their films with

rhetorical appeals to traditional American ideals of freedom, liberty and social and political justice...

their 60s and 70s progeny often turned their back on history and traditional ideals completely.


The war naturally provided fodder for these and other activist filmmakers both during the war and after.
The war was on the news every night, constantly in public view. As the conflict escalated, the images and reportage became increasingly grim--with talk of body counts filling the air.

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