In 1969, over 400,000 people crowded around a stage on a farm in New York. This legendary festival would be known as Woodstock. The story of Woodstock is told by those who were there and helped put it together as part of the PBS series, American Experience.
There have been a lot of documentaries about the historic Woodstock festival, but many have not discussed much other than the performance aspect of it. This documentary lets the ones who were there discuss what it took to put the festival together, the challenges the festival faced, the unity of everyone involved, and what it meant to the country during a critical time.
“Not many know about what it took to make this bigger than life festival happen. With any festival, there is so much that could possibly go wrong…”
This documentary stands out from all of the others for a few reasons. It gives a different look at the festival in a few different ways. One, it tells a different story, one that you may not have heard of yet. Not many know about what it took to make this bigger than life festival happen. With any festival, there is so much that could possibly go wrong – Just ask Billy McFarland and Ja Rule. Well, the people of Woodstock faced so many challenges, but what kept them from turning into a festival fiasco was the unity in Bethel, New York. Woodstock faced challenges such as bad weather, traffic congestion, understaffed with security and medical, food shortages, and overpopulation. These issues (minus the weather) were all solved by helping hands.
When the locals had initially heard about the four-day event being held in the middle of their town, they were mostly against it, but that all changed after they had heard that the festival ran out of food a couple of days into it. Locals would come together to donate food to feed the strangers that had accompanied their town for a weekend. Details such as this were new to me. I had always heard about how amazing the performances were, but not about what went on behind the scenes of the historic event, though there is a bit of talk about some of the performances in this documentary as well.
“…interviews are from those that were involved with the festival from producers to performers to the locals and attendees.”
Another thing that made this documentary standout is the interviews. The interviews are from those that were involved with the festival from producers to performers to the locals and attendees. You get to hear all sides of it. What also makes these interviews interesting, other than the subject matter, is that there is no footage of the actual interview shown. Instead, what you see is nothing but archival footage and photos of the event itself – so there are no transitions of a person sitting in front of a camera giving their insight. I thought this was a clever feature included in the documentary.
Woodstock is by far the most informative documentary about the event that I have ever seen. It was made by American Experience Films, which says a lot. They have produced so many great documentaries, and this is just another one to add to their portfolio.
Woodstock (2019) Directed by Barak Goodman, Jamila Ephron. Written by Barak Goodman, Don Kiezy. Starring Joan Baez, Richie Havens, Stephen Stills. Woodstock screened at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and is part of the PBS series—American Experience.
9 out of 10