Monday, March 19, 2007

Peace, love, and Pepsi

My husband and I had the pleasure of seeing another Barbara Kopple film at the 9th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival today. It was entitled My Generation, a documentary focusing on the three Woodstocks of 1969, 1994, and 1999. It was an honest look at the differences between the generations of Woodstockers, and the inner workings (from promotion, advertising, corporate sponsorship, etc.) of the 1994 festival. Unfortunately, the film hasn’t been screened by audiences at large, because Kopple could not find distribution for it, and aside from a few film festivals and the Starz Encore cable channel, the film has hardly been seen at all.

It is a terrible shame that this documentary hasn’t found an audience, because it deserves one. Kopple is very good at honest filmmaking, and she does a brilliant job at portraying the sense of community at each Woodstock. Yet the picture she paints is clear: we can never relive the first Woodstock, each festival belongs to its own generation. There is a lot of exploration in the film about why and how Generation X is so different, mostly from the youth themselves. While watching the movie one can’t help but think of the burdens capitalism has placed on society – Woodstock ’94 was bursting with corporate sponsorship and marketing tools, something that I think couldn’t have happened in ’69 without a lot of backlash. Woodstock isn’t just peace and love anymore – it is peace, love, and Pepsi, among other things. Corporate America is so full of brand names it has branded its own nostalgia. Is that one of the reasons the Woodstockers of ’99 were so full of rage? Yet we all allow it, as consumers we embrace it. We fit their demography, we fall in line, worshipping under the temple of the golden arches (or put your favorite corporate symbol here) as if it were some kind of god. We are addicted to Coke, mesmerized by Sony, titillated by Starbucks. We love it, we hate it, we want to rebel, but it owns us. And as one Italian audience member said in the question and answer session after the show – she doesn’t want corporate America to overtake Europe. Yet she can’t escape it - she finds herself drinking Coke and eating at McDonald’s.

Kopple beautifully splices together some performances from the same people in ’69 and ’94, and uses modern music (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, Nine Inch Nails) to help tell the story. In the end it seems to be more than just another documentary about Woodstock – it is a film about my generation, the generation before me, and what is left for the generations to come.

1 comment:

Thanos said...

I am 31, so I wasn't even born for Woodstock '69 and I am greek, so I was nowhere near Woodstock '94 and '99. Yet Barbara Kopple, much like a big sister would, makes me a mix tape called "My Generation". She honestly conveys feelings, images and music and all I have to do, all you have to do to partake, to experience Woodstock - then and now - is to open your eyes and let her in.

The tape contains it all. The good and the bad, masterfully presented. Nothing is hidden, nothing shamefully placed in the back - and nothing is glorified to the extend of deification.

If her documentary had to be 1 minute long instead of 104, I think it would be the brilliant "Joe Cocker" scene: Woodstock 1969 is a dishevelled, screaming Joe Cocker in a tie-dye shirt. In 1994 it's a clean shaven, older Mr. Cocker, perspiring still, trying to scream in his striped, white-collar shirt.

Certainly a documentary you shouldn't miss. It's been a pleasure and an honor to enjoy it sitting close to its creator.