New from Oakland's AK Press:
The double DVD compiles a pair of films by Scorsese disciples (and lifelong friends, since meeting as nine-year-old Brooklynites) Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher.
The first, 1982's Anarchism in America, documents the filmmakers' 1980 RV road trip in search of radical types coast to coast. Aside from the fact that it's pretty awesome to see a doc shot on actual film stock -- none of that DV business back in the olden days -- Anarchism fascinates with its array of interviews, all starring inevitably articulate and opinionated rabble-rousers. Ex-Republican Karl Hess (he was Barry Goldwater's chief speechwriter, circa 1964) emerges from his rural digs to chuckle at the fact that he refuses to pay taxes -- and offer some prescient observations on Americans who become overly patriotic in times of national crisis; in Mexico, Emma Goldman associate Mollie Steimer recalls her experiences as part of the early 20th century immigrant anarchist community; and Murray Bookchin (Tim Redmond's take on this "true radical thinker"'s recent passing here) gives an incredibly detailed account of his personal political history, starting with his entree into the Communist Party at the tender age of nine.
While seeking to provide a history of anarchism worldwide (see: fuzzy, black-and-white footage of the Spanish Civil War era; a brief section on global protests in support of Sacco and Vanzetti), Anarchism in America also aims to promote the philosophy's intellectual side over the stereotype of, say, wild-eyed bomb-chuckers. Indeed, the newer the footage, the more mellow the subjects -- compare a lively Vietnam War protest featuring the Transcendental Students group with a 1980 "No Nukes" rally that ends with several positively civilized arrests. (Also striking: vintage footage of the tart-tongued Goldman.) The film briefly investigates anarchism's connections to the Libertarian Party, as well as the American individualists, who pioneered cooperative communities in the mid-1800s, and much later, homestead experiments -- one of which, headed by an activist still sharp as a tack in her 80s, is visited here.
Most interesting are Anarchism in America's attempts to find folks who are actively living the philosophy -- as well as the "implicit Anarchism in American traditions" (including a rodeo, ground zero for romanticizing the American myth of the rugged individual). A trucker identified only as Li'l John works an Abe Lincoln beard and refers to the government as "big brother," despite the fact that he proudly drives a 1976 bicentennial-edition truck festooned with red, white, and blue motifs. After a bit of sweaty Dead Kennedys performance footage, a dreamy young Jello Biafra stops by with his two cents. "We like to get people to think for themselves," he says, after kind of hesitating about being included in a doc that lumps him amongst anarchists. "This is our opinion -- judge it for what you will. But for chrissakes, have an opinion!"
Also, best graffiti in the film:
The second half of the DVD contains the 55-minute The Free Voice of Labor: The Jewish Anarchists, an elegy for a Yiddish newspaper (and the elderly activists behind it) as it publishes its final issue after 87 years.