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This so called documentary highlights a new technique in revisionist history. It is one of the smartest films I have ever seen, but I say that in a bad way. It seems hippies have discovered they need not run from their failures, but, rather, just embrace them. Though I don't mean to grant significance to this project beyond what it possesses, I would like to warn people that this film is nothing more than thinly veiled propaganda.
First and foremost, 'The 60's: The Years That Shaped a Generation' is not about the decade the 60's. That is the first deception. But if you titled your film "Hippies: The People That Really Weren't That Bad" someone might think you have a bias. This is a film about hippies and, more broadly, the counter-culture revolution. Virtually nothing from '60's popular culture is discussed. Most of the film centers on the sociopolitical events that took place from 1967 to 1974. If you want to call that "the 60's" then so be it.
So far as I can tell, here is the thrust of this project: We hippies have a dilemma - When people look back on our legacy it is fraught with scandal, overt drug use, lawlessness, irresponsibility, reckless sexual behavior, snotty faced rebelliousness, naïveté and an overall creepiness factor. How do you 'spin' that? An epiphany is had. Why waste energy lying and running from your failures when you can just embrace them! Sure, we did drugs like Pez candy, but they were new and we were experimenting with everything 'new'. Sure, we behaved like dogs sexually, but we were shedding the ages of blind conformity. Sure, we had a complete and total disregard for authority, the same authority we now force others to accept as unmitigated truths, but did I mention Nixon yet? Here's the game plan with our project. First call it a documentary. People trust documentaries. Second, we tell people it's about "the 60's". That will cloak it in history, not opinion and sermonizing. Along those lines, we'll populate the movie with historians on our side and on their side we'll have villainized pundits. Third, we DO point out the faults of the hippies, but don't dwell on them. Just brush against them briefly in the context of history, and don't assign any culpability. Then quickly compare that to the faults of those we disagreed with and make sure we do assign culpability on their part (never mind the fact that most of those faults occurred in a different decade, apparently morality isn't the only ambiguous truth to hippies). Lastly, we leave open to speculation the failures of our efforts. We didn't all burn out on drugs and eventually need to "conform" in order to function on this planet. Who told you that? No, the problem was two of our leaders were assassinated and that took the wind out of our sails. Who would do such a thing? (if there's anything people love more than a spicy documentary, it's a good conspiracy!) It is worth noting that the murderers of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy and their motives are not even mentioned. The film also does not mention why, with the wind gone from their sails, the hippies proceeded to have the worlds largest orgy on a farm in New York just a year later. Was that a Irish wake of sorts? Nor does it mention how their flaccid sails relate to the plethora of failed attempts on the part of the counter-culture to achieve "new freedom" in the years to follow. The wind has gone out of the sails and it's not our fault. In closing, we wrap every thing up with a wedding reception pass-the-mike for blessings, "look at all the great things us hippies have done with our lives". So, in a way, one could say the message is 'it doesn't matter how great the institution you tear down, what matters is do you drink organic shade grown cappuccinos'?
Many conservative icons appear in this film, and I can't say I blame them for taking the opportunity - who wouldn't want to give their opinion on what went wrong with the hippies - but how could you not know that the film makers of a PBS documentary on the '60's are NOT going to try to make conservatives look irrelevant, or worse? As such, all conservative comments are used to underscore the absurdity of a contrary view. Absurdities such as Robert Bork saying that rock music fueled the rebellion. He's such a cretin! Right out of Reefer Madness I tell you! Never mind that earlier in the documentary those on the left were bragging about how rock music fueled their rebellion. Hypocrisy must be relative, too.
The film itself is well made and, I think, very interesting. The producers are masterful in there imagery and the flow of the "story", however, I might recommend spending a few more dollars at the stock footage library. I saw some clips, notably, a police line advancing towards a rioting crowd, as many as three times for various emphasis. My criticisms of this film are not having to do with it being poorly made. As most reviews focus on this quality of a film, this review may seem a bit unfair. But with the making of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, et. al., I think people are beginning to realize there is more to movie making than just entertainment. No doubt there were many slick and "poignant" films made by the Nazi party, should their misrepresentations be ignored?
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