HIDDEN HISTORY

 

The 1960s and 1970s are often portrayed in caricature--hippies, drugs, alternative lifestyles--but the lived experience of those days was much more complex.  Below is a hand-picked collection of accounts that dig deeper into the truth of the era and its aftermath.

FINDING TATANKA EXCLUSIVE

Growing Up On Struggle Mountain

Previously unreleased documentary

 

My childhood friends Lisa Tripp, Oak Dellenbach and David Moore grew up on Struggle Mountain, the commune depicted in the film that was just down the road from Joan Baez in the hills behind Palo Alto. For the first time ever, Tripp has released her unfinished 1980s documentary about the experience for exclusive viewing on the Finding Tatanka website.  Her candid narration, intimate interviews and one-of-a-kind archival footage illuminate the joys and challenges of being a kid in such a unique environment.

 

- Jacob Bricca

 

 

36 minutes (previously unreleased)

Director: Lisa Tripp

FINDING TATANKA EXCLUSIVE

How Joan Baez's Home Nearly Became Ours

 

I had playdates with Joan's son Gabriel when I was a child and my father worked with her on numerous activist campaigns back in the day, so there were a lot of things I wanted to ask when I interviewed her for Finding Tatanka in 2011. But there was one question that popped up first: "Did you really offer to give us your house?"  

 

According to my dad, in 1974 Baez was moving out of the Palo Alto home that had housed her Institute for the Study of Nonviolence when out of the blue she turned to him with the keys. "Do you want it? I don't need it." Ever the gentleman, my dad turned it down.

 

"That sounds like something I would do," Baez said with a smile. She had no specific recollection of the incident, but in her autobiography And A Voice To Sing With she recounts several instances in her long career when she gave away nearly all of her belongings to people she deemed more needy. One of her lesser known contributions to The Movement was the offering of her Woodside home as a place for activist colleagues to commune on the weekends.  (At left you can see a deleted scene from Finding Tatanka in which a rough-and-tumble game of naked water polo is in full swing.)  

 

Newly reissued, her memoir And A Voice To Sing With is full of wry observations and humorous details from a life lived on the road, and in the service of her ideals. There is a description of her romance with Bob Dylan, and her remembrances of decades worth of activist work are illuminating in their clear-eyed candor. But it's her relationship with a young Steve Jobs (Steve Jobs!!??) that makes one realize how much times have changed. He was just an oddball barefoot computer geek back then, and Palo Alto was a place where the residue of political ferment was still in the air. 

 

- Jacob Bricca

 

 

 

Deleted Scene from Finding Tatanka

 

Beyond This Place (2010)

Film about being the child of Sixties parents

 

When I was shooting Finding Tatanka I hoped to make a film as emotionally honest as this one.  Fillmmaker Kaleo LaBelle had been estranged from his father Cloud Rock since he was 13, and the film documents the uneasy reunion between the two as they undertake a greuling 500-mile bike trip across the Pacific Northwest. Kaleo clearly has problems with his father's daily drug use, and this is only the tip of the iceburg when it comes to their differences. But the sense of yearning from behind the camera is palpable, as Kaleo clearly desires something from his father that even he doesn't fully understand. Each tries to overcome the chasm between them in their own way, and even with an ending that feels just a bit too easy there is still more truth in this film than in 100 Hollywood tearjerkers.  A very special film in which what goes unsaid is as powerful as what is spoken. (Note to Sufjan Stevens fans: there's a soundtrack song here you'll want to check out.)

 

- Jacob Bricca

 

93 minutes

Director: Kaleo La Belle

Dreams Die Hard: Three Men's Journey Through The Sixties

Vivid first-person account

 

On the surface this is a true crime tale of the 1980 murder of former Congressman Allard Lowenstein by his onetime acolyte Dennis Sweeney, but on every page it is so much more. A feeling of urgency and inevitablilty suffuses the characters in this tragic tale, which recounts the two decades of history leading up to the event.  Author David Harris is the third protagonist in the story--he and Sweeney were anti-war firebrands in the Sixties while Lowenstein was the moderate liberal trying to make change within the system--and the intensity of their on-again, off-again political arguments over the years show just how deeply felt the activism of this era really was. There is a sense of creepy inevitability as the fates of the three men intertwine and the story progresses, and at every turn Harris' chops as an investigative journalist yield fascinating details that bring the scenes alive. 

 

Here's a random tidbit that shows just how far the culture  shifted in just a few years' time: in 1962 Sweeney and his girfriend, then Stanford University students, were arrested after they were found passed out drunk on a nearby Palo Alto lawn. He was suspended for a quarter, but the suspension was never enforced.  She, however, was suspended for two quarters for the official crime of "leaving herself defenseless in the presence of a male," and the suspension was enforced.

 

- Jacob Bricca

 

 

 

 

 

Following Sean (2005)

 

Film about being the child of Sixties parents

 

Following Sean opens as an East Coast skeptic’s view of the wide-open social attitudes of California in the late 1960s. New York filmmaker Ralph Arlyck admits that during the time he lived in the Haight Ashbury he was “play-acting” the part of a hippie and saw the protesting of the area as more of a sport than an expression of committed ideals, so his trip back to San Francisco to revisit the life of a street kid named Sean initially reads a bit like an interrogation.  But as the film continues we get a nicely nuanced view of both Arlyck’s own life choices and those of multiple generations of Sean’s family.

 

The film plays a little like a documentary version of Richard Linklater's recent film Boyhood, as we follow the shifting fates of a family across an extended time period.  It turns into a meditation on the characters’ changing attitudes about the purpose and meaning of work, and the strange ironies that time can impose on aging radicals who find themselves unable to escape the cruel laws of capitalism. 

 

- Jacob Bricca

 

87 minutes

Director: Ralph Arlyck

Struggle Mountain and The Land

Communes depicted in the film

 

Struggle Mountain is an intentional community on ten acres located down the road from The Land. The property was previously owned by Mildred Ligda and her publishing company, Hermes Press. Mildred, who had experience in radical production for use by cooperatives during the depression, had an affinity for the young community and in the mid seventies she sold the property to the newly formed Struggle Mountain Corporation. The community still survives, and thrives.

- Neil Reichline

 

 

Click here for the Wiki Spaces site for The Land: it's chock full of fascinating pictures and remembrances from those who lived there.

- Jacob Bricca

 

 

Photo by Susan Shapiro

 

Berkeley in the Sixties (1990)

Definitive documentary about Bay Area activism

 

A 1990 Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary Feature, this film is standard issue in terms of form (it's made up exclusively from archival footage and interviews) but extraordinary in its content. Mario Savio, Huey Newton, Allen Ginsburg, and Joan Baez all make appearances, but it's the somewhat lesser known activists like Frank Bardacke, Susan Griffin and Michael Rossman who are the heart and soul of the film.  As the chronology moves forward from the Free Speech Movement into anti-war protests, the rise of the Black Panthers and the women's liberation movement, one gets an intimate sense of the changing consciousness of the times.

 

Particularly fascinating is the contrast between the humorless government bureaucrats at Cal Berkeley and the State of California (Ronald Reagan making a couple of particularly obnoxious appearances) and the brimming idealism of the activists, as well as the moments when the activists reflect on their confusions and regrets. After so much harassment from police as the decade wore on, it's easy to see why some would become attracted to more violent "revolutionary" activity; the film also suggests that the Movement became a bit of a self-referential bubble, a culture increasingly divorced from the one they were trying to change.

 

In Finding Tatanka I didn't get into the ideological differences between the hardcore activists focused on changing society through political activism and the hippies who simply created an alternative culture of their own, but they were significant. Berkeley In The Sixties gives some treatment to this, noting the moments when the two camps were opposed to each other and the many others when they came together.

 

- Jacob Bricca

 

118 minutes, 1990
Producer/Director: Mark Kitchell

 

Have a piece of hidden history you'd like to share? Send your story or link here or comment on our Join The Conversation page.

2014 (C) OTIS FILMS.

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