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Woodstock (1970)

The 1969 outdoor rock festival called Woodstock (although it was actually held on Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm near Bethel, New York) gave its name to a generation and came to symbolise the peace and love movement of the late 1960s.

For three days, over 500,000 fans overwhelmed the facilities and when the rains came the area was turned into a sea of mud. Yet there was no violence and enormous goodwill during the three-day event.

This Oscar-winning documentary did as much as the concert itself to spread the legend of Woodstock.


With a team of 12 cameramen using 16mm film, director Michael Wadleigh shot some 120 miles of film, which were edited down to 184 minutes by assistant directors Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese, using split-screen techniques to do justice to the goings-on – both on stage and in the audience.

Featured acts include Joan BaezThe WhoJimi Hendrix and Arlo Guthrie, though a surprising number of bands asked not to be included in the film because they didn’t feel their performances were good enough.

A warning goes out concerning bad acid, Joan Baez tells the crowd about her imprisoned husband, the weather gets worse – and some are blaming it on government helicopters seeding the clouds – and the mud rises.

Festival goers begin to starve because there’s not enough food to go around, there are drug overdoses and not enough doctors are there to help, and all the while the threat of the war colours the mood.

In 1995, a Director’s Cut was issued featuring previously missing sets by Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane, and Jimi Hendrix’s The Star-Spangled Banner performance.

The real stars, however, are the vast audience – rolling in the mud, skinny-dipping and swaying in unison with flower-painted faces.

Scenes of nudity amongst the audience earned the movie an undeserved X rating in the US.

Michael Wadleigh