“F.T.A.,” an agitprop rockumentary that ran for every week in July 1972, reappears as an exhumed relic, recording the joyfully scurrilous anti-Vietnam War vaudeville led by Jane Fonda that toured the cities outdoors American navy bases in Hawaii, the Philippines and Japan.
The film, directed by Francine Parker, who produced it together with Fonda and Donald Sutherland, opened the identical day that Fonda’s journey to North Vietnam made information. The movie, greeted with outrage and consigned to oblivion, has been restored by IndieCollect, and is having fun with a belated second (digital) run.
The F.T.A. present was conceived as an alternative choice to Bob Hope’s gung-ho, blithely sexist U.S.O. excursions; its initials stood for one thing ruder than “Free the Army.” The skits, evocative of the guerrilla avenue theater, ridiculed generals, mocked male chauvinism and celebrated insubordination. The present was hardly delicate, however, as documented within the film, opinions expressed by varied servicemen had been no much less blunt.
In interviews, Black marines characterised Vietnam as “a racist and genocidal war of aggression” and even white troopers criticized the “imperialistic American government.” Half a century after it appeared, “F.T.A.” is a reminder of how deeply unpopular the Vietnam War was and the way necessary disillusioned GIs had been to the antiwar motion. “I was ‘silent majority’ until tonight,” one tells the digicam after a efficiency.
Fonda stands out as the designated spokeswoman, however the present was largely devoid of star-ism. A shaggy-looking Sutherland, who had not too long ago appeared along with her in “Klute,” will get not less than as a lot display time. Two relative unknowns, the singer Rita Martinson and the poet (and proto-rapper) Pamela Donegan, have memorable solos performing their very own materials.
The hardest working particular person was the Greenwich Village folks singer and civil rights activist Len Chandler, who assumed the Pete Seeger position of prompting the viewers to sing together with compositions like “My Ass is Mine” and “I Will Not Bow Down to Genocide.” A youthful folkie, Holly Near, was additionally available, hamming together with Fonda in a parody of “Carolina Morning” that started, “Nothing could be finer than to be in Indochina …”
Context is essential. Vivian Gornick, who lined the tour for the Village Voice, reported that “the F.T.A. was surrounded, wherever it went, by agents of the C.I.D., the O.S.I., the C.I.A., the local police.” After navy authorities grew to become frightened, “‘riot conditions’ were declared.” Indeed, “F.T.A.” paperwork antiwar demonstrations staged by civilians in Okinawa and at Subic Bay within the Philippines. The latter was singled out within the New York Times critic Roger Greenspun’s review because the film’s excessive level.
Greenspun thought “F.T.A.” didn’t seize the spirit of the stage exhibits. Perhaps, however nonetheless chaotic and self-righteous, the film is a real, highly effective and even stirring expression of the antipathy engendered by a battle that — because the writer Thomas Powers not too long ago wrote — “refused to be won, or lost, or understood” and scarred the psyches of those that lived by it.
Opens in digital cinemas by Kino Marquee beginning March 5.