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40 Years of Radical Media

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[This is an abridged version of the original document. For information on how to obtain the original version, please contact TWN.]

Newsreel on Newsreel

Film Quarterly, Winter 1968

NORM FRUCHTER, NY NEWSREEL:

Newsreel, for me, is the constant challenge of facing choices which are at once, and indissolubly film-making choices, political choices, activist choices, aesthetic choices. None of us are satisfied with the blend that emerges...how to make what we want? Films as weapons? (Historical phrase--badly weathered.) Bullets kill, and some films get into people’s heads, to shock, stun, arrest, horrify, depress, sadden, probe, demand. We want that kind of engagement--films people can’t walk away from, with “Oh yes, I saw a filmshow last night, sort of political.”

MARILYN BUCK AND KAREN ROSS, SAN FRANCISCO NEWSREEL:

In our hands film is not an anesthetic, a sterile, smooth-talking apparatus of control. It is a weapon to counter, to talk back and to crack the facade of the lying media of capitalism.

Newsreel has offered a definite medium in which to work: a weapon to destroy the established forms of control and power over people. We have had to overcome our lack of technical knowledge of film-making. Moreover, we must realize our political responsibility within our chosen form.

FRUCHTER: We’re tied to events, and we shouldn’t be. Pentagon, Columbia, Chicago, the Haight. Where should we begin? New forms? But how much will time, limited energies, finance, and the wearing pressure of events, the race to stay responsible, limit us?

BUCK AND ROSS:
Newsreel is a collective rather than a cooperative; we are not together merely to help each other out as film-makers but we are working together for a common purpose: to make films which shatter the image and reality of fragmentation and exploitation in this society. In making films together which reflect a collective, a movement of ideas and actions rather than the individuality of the artist, we must develop new values, forms, new criteria for individual interaction.

FRUCHTER:
There’s no revolutionary party yet, only fledgling forms of various undergrounds. No coherent strategy, no discipline to stay hewed to. How to transcend this transition stage? What’s our response to the police ambush in Cleveland, who among us has doubts about why black men are moved to shoot police? Newsreel is a jumping-off point. What historical stage are we in, what categories can we use to decide what we must do?

ROBERT KRAMER, NEW YORK NEWSREEL:
We say: “the things you see in these films are happening at this moment, they are our ‘news,’ they are important to us and do not represent the droppings of a few freaks, but the activity of a growing wave of people, your children who were fighting the pigs at Columbia, your brothers who walked out of this high school, your sons who deserted the army, your former slaves who will not now accept your insufficient reparations, etc., etc. You know this reality. You know enough to know that this is real -- now deal with it, because soon it’s going to come to deal with you, in one way or another.”

BBUCK AND ROSS:
We stop people on the street, and confront them with our films. Involve them as participants. It has come to them during a walk down the street, they’ve stumbled upon it. They have been confronted. The decision to watch, to register disgust or interest is now theirs. To those inquisitive, we explain more. Newsreel has its confrontation through film.

KRAMER:
Our films remind some people of battle footage: grainy, camera weaving around trying to get the materials and still not get beaten/trapped. Well, we, and many others, are at war. We not only document that war, but try to find ways to bring that war to places which have managed so far to buy themselves isolation from it.

There is no such thing as revolutionary content, revolutionary spirit, laid out for inspection and sale on the bargain basement counter.

 

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