1968: Actions and Reactions
Over the course of the year, Filmforum is presenting a variety of films reflecting the turbulent global events of 1968, films made in that time, and works reflecting on the long-term effects and disappointments of the activist efforts and violent responses. From the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert Kennedy to the Democratic Convention and 1968 presidential election in the US, to the strikes in France in May and the Prague Spring and Soviet crushing of it, these films of and on 1968 utilize many voices and techniques to show an era that seemed lost but perhaps now cycles back to our consciousness and actions. 1968: Actions and Reactions includes several short films, including four from Newsreel following women journeying to DC for a march in January; draft resisters in Boston; protesters utilizing garbage in New York; and the disruption of the Miss America pageant of 1968; Tom Palazzolo’s CAMPAIGN, an impressionistic view of the clashes during the 1968 Democratic National Convention; and Madeleine Anderson’s moving document, I AM SOMEBODY, of a strike by black female hospital workers in Charleston SC.
Jeannette Rankin Brigade (Newsreel #4)
By Lynn Phillips and others
1968, b&w, sound, 8 min.
In January 1968, 10,000 women led a peaceful, march on Washington in protest against the Vietnam War. This film documents the march and raises questions about the forms of protest engaged by women and the role of women in the anti-war. Jeannette Rankin Brigade was the first Newsreel film proposed, shot and edited by women.
One of the Newsreel filmmakers, Lynn Phillips said about the film production, "We knew that Jeannette Rankin was coming east… Somehow we got a hold of a 16mm Bolex, plus the usual outdated film stock, and we took the train down. We had no budget, no sound, so there wasn't really any chance to make a historical document. Nevertheless, we felt that she was an important icon for women… she was a suffragette, a pacifist, and opposed to the war in Vietnam. Women had not shot anything or really authored any films in Newsreel at this point. I remember that my feeling was that I didn't have it together to make a significant film, but that women just had to GO and shoot something, just to create some momentum for women inside the organization. The film is more an artifact than a real film, but it played its role as a historical moment — where two generations of feminist briefly met."
More on the Brigade here.
By Tom Palazzolo
1968, 16mm, color, sound, 12 min.
CAMPAIGN uses the neo-Roman architecture of Chicago (Coliseum, Amphitheater and Elks Temple) to build an atmosphere of institutional calm, beauty and strength. The benevolent despot, played by Mayor Daley, seen in the film crowned with a green hard hat, staves off the attempted coup of his regime by militant anarchists mistakenly publicized by the press and TV as a protest against the war and the Democratic Convention. Filmed in the streets of Chicago during the '68 Convention under actual combat conditions.
"The macing scene will take your breath away." - Hubert Humphrey
Up Against the Wall Miss America (Newsreel #22)
By Bev Grant and Karen Mitnick Liptak
1968, b&w, sound, 6 min.
"Here she comes…" At the 1968 Miss America pageant, demonstrators introduced a sheep as the appropriate winner. This entertaining short film shows how Women's Liberation activists used guerrilla theater to raise awareness of what Miss America really represents. The film was widely screened by the second wave women's movement and is a vivid document of the movement's activists in action.
This short film was the first film made by Bev Grant and Karen Mitnick Liptak, members of the Newsreel collective. Bev Grant said, "The movie came about because I was a member of NY Radical Women, a sort of coalition group, including WITCH and Redstocking who were planning the Miss America Beuty Pageant demo. Miriam Boxer and I had gained press passes as members of Liberation News Service and were sitting below the runway. Karen Mitnick and I had a Bolex camera and a Nagra recorder and Miriam shot stills. Whe Miss America took her walk, we filmed it and also caught some footage of the banner being unfurled over the balcony. This was the first film Karen and I had ever worked on." – Bev Grant
Boston Draft Resistance Group a.k.a. BDRG (Newsreel #7)
1968, b&w, sound, 18 min
A profile of a grassroots anti-war group in Boston, this short film documents some of the tactics and activities used by draft resistance groups across the country during the Vietnam War. Using the law to keep young men out of the war, this group helped over 150 people each week escape service and educate themselves and their communities about alternatives to combat.
Garbage a.k.a. Garbage Demonstration (Newsreel #5)
1968, b&w, sound, 10 min
During a prolonged garbage collector's strike in New York City, a group of youths from the Lower East Side of Manhattan decide to use the situation to make a political statement. They collect garbage from the streets of their community and deposit piles of it on the grounds of Lincoln Center, "The Establishment's" cultural showcase.
I Am Somebody
By Madeleine Anderson
1969, color, sound, 30 min.
A cinematic snapshot of the civil rights movement across the United States in the 1960s. I Am Somebody documents the 1969 strike of Black hospital workers in Charleston, South Carolina, over the course of which more than a thousand strikers, students, and civil rights activists were jailed. All but twelve of the 400 strikers were women, and Anderson tells the story from a distinctly feminist point of view.
Madeline Anderson is a filmmaker, film editor, and film producer. She is the director of the documentaries Integration Report (1960), I Am Somebody (1969), and A Tribute to Malcolm X (1969) among numerous other films. With the making of I Am Somebody Anderson became the first American-born black woman, in a film industry union, to make a half-hour documentary film. She served as an in-house film editor at NET (now WNET) and was a member of the original staff at Black Journal. Anderson has also created many films for children, for both the Children’s Television Workshop and Infinity TV. She has taught at Columbia University’s Graduate School of the Arts and was one of the pioneers of WHMM, Howard University’s public television station. Awards and honors include the Indie Award from the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers (a lifelong achievement award for contributions to the arts of film and television). She was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1992.
"I got a call from the local 1199 [union]. They were looking for a filmmaker because they wanted to make a film about the strike. Someone had recommended me, and so, would I be interested? Yeah! I had already done so much research, and I knew what was available in the libraries. I was so overjoyed to do it. I would have done it for nothing, but this was the first time that I had a proper budget. They gave me money, time, everything that I needed to make this film. It was like the perfect storm. I looked at these women like they were my sisters because I’d had the same experience of gender, race, and politics that they were having. When national and international attention was focused on these women, it was my story. There was no way that I was not going to make that film." - Madelene Anderson, in I Am Somebody: An Interview with Madeleine Anderson, by Ashley Clarke, March 3, 2017, at Metrograph Theatre web site.