'American Experience: Woodstock'
(DVD / NR / 2019 / PBS)
Overview: 'American Experience: Woodstock - Three Days That Defined A Generation' celebrates the 50th anniversary of the concert that became a touchstone for a generation.
This film brings the three-day concert to life through the voices of those who were present at what became the defining moment of the counterculture revolution.
DVD Verdict: In August 1969, nearly half a million people gathered at a farm in upstate New York to hear music.
What happened over the next three days, however, was far more than a concert. It would become a legendary event, one that would define a generation and mark the end of one of the most turbulent decades in modern history.
Occurring just weeks after an American set foot on the moon, the Woodstock music festival took place against a backdrop of a nation in conflict over sexual politics, civil rights and the Vietnam War.
A sense of an America in transition - a handoff of the country between generations with far different values and ideals - was tangibly present at what promoters billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music" (although it was also referred to alternatively, on occasion, as the "Bethel Rock Festival" - given its location in the Town of Bethel, New York, or the "Aquarian Music Festival".
Thirty-two acts performed over the course of the four days it was Swami Satchidananda who gave the opening speech and amazingly, Richie Havens was moved up to the opening performance slot after Sweetwater were stopped by police en route to the festival (and other artists were delayed on the freeway!).
Infamously rounded out on the Sunday/Monday early AM by Jimi Hendrix / Gypsy Sun & Rainbows - performing to a considerably smaller crowd of fewer than 200,000 people - it has been said that the dreams of marijuana and rock music was what drew the 300,000 fans (and hippies) to the Catskills that long weekend!
'American Experience: Woodstock' turns the lens back at that aforementioned audience, at the swarming, impromptu city that grew up overnight on a few acres of farm land.
What took place in that teaming mass of humanity - the rain-soaked, starving, tripping, half-a-million strong throng of young people - was nothing less than a miracle of teamwork, a manifestation of the "peace and love" the festival had touted and a validation of the counter-culture's promise to the world.
Who were these kids? What experiences and stories did they carry with them to Bethel, New York that weekend, and how were they changed by three days in the muck and mire of Yasgur's farm?
Find out, in some small part, of course, here within this intriguing hour and a half documentary, now out via PBS. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.