Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation gives us a look into the ups and down of the historic Woodstock festival in Bethel, New York. It is a magical and nostalgic look into the 1969 festival that set the precedent for what all modern festivals have become. (AEG 3.5/5)
Review by FF2 Intern Anika Guttormson
Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation, directed by Barak Goodman, and produced by Barak Goodman, Jamila Ephron, and Mark Samels, reveals happy accident after happy accident in its retelling of the events of perhaps the world’s most influential music festival. The directors shied away from getting into the heavy logistics of the festival, instead opting to dive into the feelings of joy and freedom present throughout. There’s no sense of worry or dread as every moment of tension is immediately resolved; for instance when hoards of locals are shown rushing to the festival to provide food when the supply trucks were blocked, or when the American military sends in doctors after the medical tents were overwhelmed.
The best aspect of this documentary was its uncanny ability to transport the viewer back in time to the event itself. Detached voiceovers from planners, artists, and attendees alike serve as a string to tie together the washed-out 35mm footage of the festival. In addition to describing the musical acts themselves, the film explores the other venues present at Woodstock, including the wide stages put together by the Hog family (the festivals security group), the rows and rows of pop-up tents selling anything from food to instruments to marijuana, and the smattering of nudist colonies that began to crop up around the event. From the music to the general atmosphere to the many challenges that planers and attendees alike encountered, Woodstock is described with an unmatched degree of affection and wonder.
Goodman attempts to cover a lot of ground in his inclusion of both the planning aspect of Woodstock as well as its eventual execution, and along the way some crucial elements seem to be left out. Glaring questions concerning legality and logistics are left unanswered. One such question is how exactly did the small city of Bethel feed almost half a million people for days after the festival ran out of food, and why did the festival organizers ever allow themselves to start the festival knowingly short on food supplies? Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty answers, Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation presents these serious issues as misfortunes that are quickly and miraculously solved before moving on to list the hordes of other problems that the festival faced.
For everyone from the babies present at Woodstock, to those who grew up hearing their parents and grandparents telling them about the festival, this documentary will no doubt be a delight. It does an excellent job of placing the viewer in the moment—into a feeling of being present as Joan Baez serenades the audience in blue light on the first night of the festival, or as Jimi Hendrix finishes the final night with the national anthem. As a viewer, I wish that the documentary had spent more time showcasing the incredible female artists such as Janis Joplin that performed at the event as well.
Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation certainly doesn’t shy away from the fact that the event was woefully under-planned. Though perhaps it’s a testament to the group mentality of the 1960s that every problem was fixed by a team of well-prepared volunteers and a general spirit of camaraderie. This documentary is a fun look into three days that defined music history forever.
© Anika Guttormson (5/31/18) FF2 Media
Photo Credits: IMDB
Q: Does Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?
Yes, female attendees described the event as well as their experience watching the female performers.