Woodstock UCE: 40th Anniversary Review

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The documentary of the most pop famous festival ever held.


They say if you can remember the 1960s you weren’t there. That’s especially true of the 1969 Woodstock festival, which was ruled a national disaster by authorities and a money-loser for organisers who had no way of collecting entrance fees from the 500,000 attendees, but stands as a high-point of the ‘peace and love’ counterculture for a remarkable lack of violence, the good humour of folks under adverse conditions (it rained, there wasn’t enough food, Abbie Hoffman interrupted The Who) and a still-unmatched line-up of rock and pop acts.

Fortunately, even if you weren’t there, director Michael Wadleigh was, running around with multiple crews, filming performances — seminally, Jimi Hendrix melds The Star-Spangled Banner with Purple Haze — but also the locals, the put-upon staff (the help-desk girl says she’s had to answer acidhead questions like, “What’s the colour of jealousy?”) and the blissed-out and bedraggled ‘beautiful people’. A two-part epic, this would earn its rating for the music alone (even Sha Na Na), but the tiny moments — the smiling nun flashing a peace sign, the announcer warning against “the brown acid”, the police chief who says how proud he is of these young Americans — stick in the mind after 40 years of backlash against everything Woodstock represented.

For younger generations who weren't there this is essential viewing to truly understand the time and the history of this iconic era. For those who were, this is probably equally as important as you probably don't remember much through the haze anyway.