Hot Docs Marks the Woodstock’s 50th Anniversary with Woodstock Revisited
By Pat Mullen
Woodstock keeps on rockin’! This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, so music docs are essential for anyone’s agenda. As 2019 marks the unofficial year of the Baby Boomer music documentary (see: Echo in the Canyon, David Crosby: Remember My Name, Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind, Marianne & Leonard, and Rolling Thunder Revue, just to name a few), Hot Docs is taking audiences back to the fateful weekend that changed music forever.
Woodstock Revisited, running this weekend at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, lets audiences relive the tumultuous three-day extravaganza of music, peace, drugs, and love that defined a generation. The event features some of the landmark music docs about the event, along with some seminal rockumentaries and portraits of artists who played the big show.
As much as docs fans might want to rush out to see The Last Waltz again or catch the rollicking Grateful Dead epic Long Strange Trip on the big screen, the must-see event of the festival is its opening night film, Barbara Kopple’s My Generation. This screening is a rare chance to see the two-time Oscar winner’s portrait of Woodstock that chronicled the chaotic mess of Woodstock ’99 and saw how the music fans who thrived at the original concert turned the event into a soulless corporate cash grab, selling out the younger generation and forgetting the roots of the ’69 landmark. My Generation is virtually impossible to see since funder Polygram withdrew its support, essential for the music licensing in this concert doc with ample headliners, leaving Kopple with only festival rights. (Pro tip: there’s also a VHS copy of the film in the reference library at TIFF Bell Lightbox, potentially the very tape with which Kopple submitted to the festival.) Music fans and doc fans alike need to take advantage of this opportunity to see a hidden gem in the filmography of the best documentary filmmaker working today.
Here’s what’s playing at Woodstock Revisited:
FRIDAY, AUGUST 16
Dir. Barbara Kopple | 103 min | 2000 | USA
A mid-career masterpiece from Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple, My Generation chronicles the evolution of the Woodstock phenomenon. From the original concert that was centered around peace and love, to the modern iterations that focused on monetizing the music, Kopple looks for the harmony in the unifying qualities of music, and the generations of young people searching for their own moment in history.
Featuring concert footage from Joe Cocker, Green Day, DMX, Limp Bizkit, and more.
D: Arthur Penn | 111 min | 1969 | USA
A time capsule of the late 1960s, this bittersweet ode to the blues embodies a time where fighting the establishment and changing the world brought an entire generation together. Featuring Arlo Guthrie, this film, released just after Woodstock, is an adaptation of Guthrie’s 1967 satirical folk tune “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”, a song that was hailed as culturally, historically, or artistically significant by the Library of Congress.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 17
David Crosby: Remember My Name
D: A.J. Eaton | 95 min | 2019 | USA
Charismatic troubadour David Crosby bares all in this intimate portrait produced by Cameron Crowe. A 2019 Sundance selection, the musician (now in his late 70s), reflects on the highs and lows of his storied life and career—from childhood memories and his early inspirations, to his numerous love affairs and unbelievable stories from the heyday of rock’n’roll.
Jimi Hendrix: Live at Woodstock
D: Michael Wadleigh | 90 min | 1999 | USA A quintessential concert doc—watch in awe as guitar god Jimi Hendrix plays his full set from the historic festival. Fully restored, uninterrupted and in sequence, this electrifying doc features hair-raising renditions of “Foxy Lady,” “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” “Spanish Castle Magic,” “Lover Man,” and his iconic version of the “Star Spangled Banner”.
Long Strange Trip
D: Amir Bar-Lev | 238 min | 2017 | USA
This four-hour psychedelic documentary chronicles the history of legendary rock band The Grateful Dead. Produced by Martin Scorsese with rare archival footage of gigs and never-before-seen live performances, this required viewing for any Deadhead is an incisive record of the rise and fall of 20th-century counterculture.
7:00 PM (Part 1)
9:15 PM (Part 2)
SUNDAY, AUGUST 18
Janis: Little Girl Blue
D: Amy Berg | 143 min | 2014 | USA
An indominable musical force, the power of Janis Joplin’s voice and the impact of her music will never be forgotten. In this loving portrait, Oscar nominee Amy Berg reveals the brilliance of this complicated and often beleaguered artist, whose surprising rise and sudden demise changed music forever. Featuring stunning archival footage, alongside contemporary interviews and personal letters performed by musician Cat Power.
The Last Waltz
D: Martin Scorsese | 1978 | 116 min | USA
A farewell concert film for the ages, Academy Award winner Martin Scorsese directs roots rock group The Band’s final performance. A send-off like no other, this classic music doc is filled with jaw-dropping performances from Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and many more.
CLOSING NIGHT FILM
Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music
D: Michael Wadleigh | 184 min | 1970 | USA
This original Oscar-winning doc is the definitive account of Woodstock. Celebrate the “Summer of Love” with this epic and immersive film, featuring unforgettable performances that came to define the spirit of the ‘60s, including Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Richie Havens, Joan Baez, The Who, Joe Cocker, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby Stills & Nash, Arlo Guthrie, Santana, Credence Clearwater Revival, and more.