Film

Behold Here Come the Videofreex’ Secret Video History of America’s Early-Seventies Crackup

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This doc’s 78-minute running time boasts an hour or so of vital, full-blooded, way-too-rare video footage of America’s crackup as the Sixties crashed into the Seventies, all shot by Videofreex, a collective of early adopters of then-new camera equipment.

“If it wasn’t for the law, we’d win easy,” Abbie Hoffman laughs in the early days of the Chicago Seven trial. There’s scrums at peace protests and an African-American activist speaking tough truths to white feminists who don’t seem interested in her concerns; there’s New Yorkers in a meeting, just after Roe v. Wade, discussing the practicalities and prices of abortion. “I never hit a girl in my life, but there’s always a first time,” a dude cracks at a feminist rally. Fred Hampton of the Chicago Black Panthers spews fire on the topic of not disarming — just a couple of weeks before his assassination. A wisp-bearded young man at Woodstock holds forth about the “shitty job” his parents’ generation did raising kids; another guy sits with a lamb in his lap, proclaiming that his generation is one big family opposed to murder, even of animals. “You shouldn’t turn your stomach into a grave,” he says.

All that (and more, so much more) makes Jon Nealon and Jenny Raskin’s Here Come the Videofreex can’t-miss viewing for culture heads. For all that, the film’s narrative — the Freex’ story told through latter-day interviews — plays like some counter-endorsement of the freeform-style video screenings the collective used to hold at the Loft in the early Seventies, or of the pirate TV station they ran upstate starting in ’74: The staid, programmatic techniques of today’s doc filmmaking run counter to the revolution of what these kids shot.

Best of the Freex’ reminiscences: “Turning people on to video at the time was sort of like turning people on to grass.”

Here Come the Videofreex

Directed by Jon Nealon and Jenny Raskin

March 9, IFC Center

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