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Chicago 1968: Medium Cool and “Yippie”

Chicago 1968: Medium Cool and “Yippie”

Medium Cool

Los Angeles Filmforum presents

Chicago 1968: Medium Cool and “Yippie” (Visions of Possibilities, part 6)

Sunday July 29, 2018, 7:30pm

At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028

Introduction by Michael Renov, Haskell Wexler Endowed Chair in Documentary at USC

Chicago, August 26-29, 1968.  Thousands of delegates arrive for the Democratic Convention to affirm Vice-President Hubert Humphrey as the party’s nominee for the presidential election, after the assassination of Robert Kennedy in June.  Even more activists arrive to protest the Johnson administration, the war in Viet Nam, and the state of the USA, and to act out new possibilities for lifestyles, demonstrations, and political theater.  Chaos ensues, heavily covered by mainstream and alternative media.

Program six of 1968: Visions of Possibilities looks at this fateful week through two lenses.  The first is a short film produced by the Youth International Party, or the Yippies, founded on Dec 31, 1967, that uses found footage interspersed with their own actions in Chicago and before to express their anarchic view of politics.  The second is Medium Cool, the first feature of the lauded cinematographer and documentarian Haskell Wexler.  A scathing look at journalist ethics, and power structures, the film also references many of the significant events of the year in American politics, including a sequence at Resurrection City in Washington DC, a largely forgotten action of the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968.  The film’s final scenes famously include star Verna Bloom wandering through the crowds and police crackdowns of the convention, and involved Wexler getting tear-gassed while filming.

1968: Visions of Possibilities: Over the course of the year, Filmforum will present 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.  Series curated by Adam Hyman.

Tickets: $10 general; $6 for students/seniors; free for Filmforum members. Available in advance from Brown Paper Tickets at or at the door.

For more information: or 323-377-7238

Michael Renov is the Haskell Wexler Endowed Chair in Documentary at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the author or editor of four books on documentary film including Theorizing Documentary (1993); with Jane Gaines, Collecting Visible Evidence (1999); The Subject of Documentary (2004) and, with Bill Nichols, Cinema's Alchemist: The Films of Peter Forgacs.  Renov has served on documentary juries at Sundance, Silverdocs, DocLisboa (Portugal), It's All True (Brazil), BAFICI (Argentina) and EIDF (South Korea) and has taught at Stockholm University, Tel Aviv University and the Central European University.


1968, b&w, sound, 10 min.

Edited by Howard Alk and Bill Jersey.  Courtesy of the Catticus Corporation

Filmed as the official statement of the Youth International Party, this film is as freewheeling and irreverent as the Yippies themselves. It presents an overview of 1968 Chicago, Mayor Daley, and the pig the Yippies ran for president. The film juxtaposes orgy scenes from D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance" and Keystone Cops chases with Yippie antics in Chicago. The film also explores the issue of police brutality - both humorously and with an undercurrent of deep anger. This film was actually produced by and for Yippies; Newsreel adopted it in order to bring it to a wider audience.

Medium Cool1 yellow dress

Medium Cool

Medium Cool

1969, color, sound, 111 minutes

Written & Directed by Haskell Wexler

Featuring: Robert Forster, Verna Bloom, Peter Bonerz, Marianna Hill, Harold Blankenship

The great American cinematographer Haskell Wexler, who died in December 2015 at the age of 93, was behind the camera for some of the most important films of the turbulent 1960s and 70s. His work included The Conversation, American Graffiti, In the Heat of the Night, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for which he collected one of his two Oscars (from five career nominations). Wexler’s directorial debut, Medium Cool, examined journalistic ethics while blurring the line between fact and fiction, as he included footage of the riots which followed the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago as part of his feature.  – BBC Arts,

“Shot on location in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Medium Cool examines the use and abuse of journalism in an era when widespread popular protests were increasingly subject to police violence and, more disturbingly, government-sanctioned subversion. Wexler, an Academy Award–winning cinematographer, blurs the borders between documentary and fiction in this multilayered masterpiece that simultaneously ‘encapsulates the divisive issues of race and poverty that remain as urgent today as they did in 1968 [and] makes us think about the way the media shape our lives and are used to deflect public attention from sustained political action’” -- Philip French, The Guardian

Haskell Wexler interview from 1970, and Interview from the Edinburgh Film Festival, also at