On May Day 2018, Spectacle is proud to present MAYDAY 1971 RAW; a documentary using footage shot and edited in 1971, by an early ad hoc collective of 25 of the earliest indy videomakers called Mayday Video, that included the infamous video pirates the Videofreex. This revised and expanded version was directed and edited by Videofreex member Skip Blumberg in 2017; a utopian call to arms for the 21st century.

Videofreex, one of the earliest video collectives, was formed in 1969, and produced over 1,500 tapes and edits in their decade of working together. As early adopters of video camera technology, the ‘freex were constantly shooting footage; creating guerilla television for the counterculture as they made their way through the political turmoil of the late ‘60s and ‘70s.

Two of their founding members, David Cort and Parry Teasdale, met at Woodstock Music Festival, Sony Portapaks in hand. Joined by Mary Curtis Ratcliff, and working out of a Manhattan loft, they eventually grew to ten members, including Chuck Kennedy, Nancy Cain, Skip Blumberg, Davidson Gigliotti, Carol Vontobel, Bart Friedman and Ann Woodward.

In 1971, the collective moved to a shared house in Lanesville, NY, where they launched Lanesville TV, probably the world’s first pirate television station with a transmitter supported by Abbie Hoffman. Speaking back to the three TV networks of the time (CBS, NBC, & ABC), they produced documentary work with Fred Hampton, the Weathermen, Yoko Ono, the Hell’s Angels, and Shirley Clarke, to name just a few.

Dir. Skip Blumberg / Videofreex / Mayday Video, 1971 / 2017.
Amerika. 66 min.
(This event is $10)

“The more of those kids, people who have never been arrested, that you bring in that jail… What they been taught, they know better now. So Momma, Daddy, nobody can tell ‘em. They found it out for themselves.”

On May 1st, 1971, 35,000 protesters occupied West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C. for a massive series of direct actions against the war in Vietnam. They blocked traffic intersections and the entrances to several federal buildings. Their message: “If the government won’t stop the war, we’ll stop the government.”

Mayday Video, a collective comprising the Videofreex and other independent video pioneers, was formed to document these protests from the inside. Conceived of as the counterculture’s own press coverage, Mayday Video captured the event with a verité approach made possible by the relatively new technology of video cameras. MAYDAY 1971 RAW is compiled from Mayday Video’s original footage and gives an experiential account of that tumultuous week of radical political action.

By May 7th, over 12,000 protesters were arrested, crowding D.C. central lockup. In one of the film’s most striking sequences, the D.C. Metropolitan Police become so overwhelmed that they lock one arrested Mayday Video member, Davidson Gigliotti, in a holding cell with his video camera, allowing him to record from inside the jail. Watching today, one cannot help but think of the repressive police tactics and mass arrests in Washington D.C. during the 2017 presidential inauguration.

MAYDAY 1971 RAW uses minimal editorializing or exposition, giving contemporary audiences just enough context. Interspersed with footage of the protests are on-the-fly interviews that give a vivid sense of the political climate with a wide breadth of voices – from organizers of the protests like Rennie David of the Chicago 8 to rabid anti-communists to working-class residents of D.C. who feel ambivalence about the protesters’ tactics even while supporting their message.

Covering not only the anti-war movement, but also feminism, black power, and the emergent LGBTQ movment, MAYDAY 1971 RAW is a partisan time-capsule that speaks not only to the past, but also urgently to our present.

Special thanks to Skip Blumberg, Videofreex, and Mayday Video.

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