We finish up an array of decidedly different documentaries this week with Steve James, Frederick Marx, and Peter Gilbert's Hoop Dreams, the story of Arthur Agee and William Gates, two young men from Chicago with athletic ambitions. Like Burden of Dreams -- though for vastly different reasons -- what was meant to be a short shoot ballooned to four years, and Hoop Dreams arrived as one of the best sports documentaries in history, as well as a lasting indictment on racism and classism in America.
At the height of the Summer of Love powerhouses in pop music came together to hold the first Monterey Pop Music Festival, possibly the first pop music festival ever. D.A. Pennebaker was on hand to record the proceedings to be released as a film, though his footage was eventually released as three. We're talking all of them on this week's Lost in Criterion, including supplemental materials, as we explore the Complete Monterey Pop Festival box set containing Monterey Pop (1967), Jimi Plays Monterey (1986), and Shake! Otis at Monterey (1986).
I don’t often talk about our recording schedule, but this week’s episode is already terribly dated for terrible reasons. Pat and I watched Hearts and Minds, Peter Davis’s 1974 documentary on the Vietnam War, way back in September. I actually watched it on the 11th, because I don’t want to be happy.
The world has changed a lot, even in the last eight weeks. On the one hand, we recorded this so long ago because Pat took paternity leave for the birth of his second child. On the other, the concerns of continued militarization of Japan Pat expresses in the episode have come to fruition, and it’s a bitter fruit. I rhetorically ask what it will take to forget the lessons we learned from the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, like we forgot the lessons of Vietnam -- naively suggesting that those wars are over and that we actually learned a lesson -- and it seems we may now have an answer.
I am so tired of waiting,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?
(Tired, Langston Hughes)
This might be our most controversial episode. Maybe it won’t. Saló actually seems to have a pretty big head start on that front. Maybe the people who listen to us are more into film than politics. Often the two are intrinsically linked.
Much like that time we talked about Do the Right Thing, this is a depressing episode that is even more depressing for how timely it is - how timely it will always be.
Oh man, if Oliver Twist was problematic then Robert J. Flaherty's 1922 "documentary" is the pure problem to which problematic things aspire. It's not just staged, it's purposefully primitivized, Falherty taking away an modernity his Inuit subjects had allowed into their lives, from guns to to jeans to houses. Still as the world's first full-length documentary, it proved that such a thing was possible and marketable, so it sits on its throne of lies.