MSPIFF 2016 Review: Here Comes the Videofreex

Written by The Vern

Now that everyone can post all sorts of videos on the internet today, it’s easy to take the technology we use for granted. Anyone with a cell phone can now be considered a journalist. They just have to be at the right place at the right time or the wrong time depending on what the occasion is. I remember when the beating of Rodney King first aired and how it sparked a revolution/riot. People were talking and debating about that tape for a long time. In my mind, I thought that this was the first time independent video got into the mainstream, but it wasn’t. In the late sixties, there was a group of young journalists who would introduce this type of media to the masses.

Founded in 1969, the Videofreex were a group of people who got their hands on one of the first video cameras. They started off taking candid shots of footage at Woodstock and making experimental movies. One of the executives at CBS saw their footage and decided to hire them for a new segment on their news programs. They were going to report on the issues and events the networks could never get. They got exclusive interviews with political activist Abbie Hoffman and Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. When the network saw the footage, they decided to scrap the whole idea and fire the group. Since the tapes were now being held at CBS studios, the Videofreex had to come up with a way to get them back and out to the masses again, but how?

The only issue I had with the documentary is that it slows down majorly in the third act. How the group tries to get their tapes back is somewhat intriguing and I wish they would have milked those moments a little bit longer. After that, the movie kind of drags for another thirty minutes or so. It was fascinating to see what they did in that section, but I felt too much time was spent there.

Here Comes The Videofreex is a very interesting portrait of a group who made an impact in our lives but have never been recognized for it until now. I was most impressed with the group for wanting to tell their stories and not just sell out to the big networks because that would be easy to do. Sometimes integrity is more important than giant paycheck and I highly respect them for that. They helped pave the way for a new breed of reporting. Unfortunately, now that everyone with a smartphone can now be labeled as a reporter, many big networks are just showcasing people’s opinions rather than showcasing the facts. News stations are starting to highlight people’s twitter feeds as part of their story. With the Videofreex, it was inspirational to see this group defeat the odds and continue to work as reporters no matter what. Sometimes you gotta forget any consequences and just go for it.

To learn more about this documentary visit the film’s website. To learn more about the fest and the Minneapolis Film Society. Please visit their website.

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