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Friday, August 17, 2001
‘My Generation’ captures the vibes, rituals of three world-famous concerts
With the new Starz film ‘My Generation,’ acclaimed filmmaker Barbara Kopple notes
similarilties and differences between the original Woodstock in 1969 and its sequels
in ‘94 and ‘99.
Woodstock. The word brings back memories - flashbacks in some cases to anyone
born within the last 50 years. It’s one of those where-were-you-when moments,
and the festival’s three editions are forever logged in the history books of rock
The new movie My Generation is the first comprehensive film to look
at what it meant to be at Woodstock in 1969, ’94 and ’99. Filmmaker Barbara Kopple
spliced used and unused footage from the original Woodstock film and cut it with
her own material from the two festivals within the last decade to complete the
My Generation premieres on Starz at 7 p.m. tonight, the 32nd anniversary
of the original Woodstock.
For me, there was a palpable, almost tangible feeling of this community
of people sort of coming together, said Michael Lang, who produced each Woodstock
concert. Everybody who sort of came close to it felt this incredibly strong excuse
the word, but vibration that was coming from this happening. And that’s something
I’ll never forget. And I don’t think anybody who touched it would ever forget.
Kopple owns two Best Documentary Oscars for her strike-related films
Harlan County, U.S.A. (1971) and American Dream (1989) but that’s not to say she’s
not experienced in the musical arena.
In 1980 she worked on the concert-documentary No Nukes, and she also
directed 1997’s Wild Man Blues, which followed auteur Woody Allen touring Europe
with his New Orleans Jazz Band. She agrees with Lang that Woodstock’s real worth
was found not only in the music, but the communal gathering.
People really need to have a sense of community, a sense of ritual,
a sense of being together, listening to music that they love, said Kopple in a
recent interview in Los Angeles. And even though the times are different, we’re
all very similar, wanting to be able to connect.
As much as the festivals were similar, they took place years apart,
hosted drastically different bands and drew vastly distinctive crowds. What exactly
were those differences, from the perspective of someone who was as close to the
festivals as Lang?
In ’69, there was this sort of amazement that everybody felt, just
in terms of the numbers of people that were there, said Lang, and I think the
’60s was kind of an interesting decade for us growing up, for those of us who
grew up then. And you felt kind of disconnected from society in general.
Then to come to a place and see these countless numbers of people,
suddenly you realize that people that you thought were in the hundreds were in
the hundreds of thousands, and that led to this bonding, I believe. It was just
such a surprise. I think that in the ’94 and ’99 events, that was more or less
anticipated. People came with the expectations of having that kind of experience
because they had seen then film or they had been driven crazy by their parents
Specifically speaking on the differences of the last two Woodstocks,
Kopple said the ’94 concert happened when kids were thought of as worthless slackers,
while during the ’99 event, youths everywhere were becoming millionaires in the
We were very media-savvy in 1994 and 1999, she said.
A similarity among all three festivals was the profit margin. Lang
swore that none of the concerts made any money surprising, given the hundreds
of thousands of people in attendance.
We did not make money on Woodstock ’69 until much later, he said.
Unlike Warner Bros., who made tens of millions on the film, that was just bad
planning on our part. The subsequent two also did not earn a profit. And you might
ask: Why do you keep doing them? And we don’t have a really good answer, other
than the experience of putting them on and the experience of attending them, I
think, makes them worthwhile.
Contact pop culture/media critic at 886-3688 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pop culture and media critic Ricardo Baca can be reached at 886-3688
or by e-mail at email@example.com
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