8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Richard A. Hare
- Published on Amazon.com
The story of how a counter-culture free festival became a British institution - for American viewers, try to imagine what would happen if Burning Man became as big as the Superbowl - in recent years, the festival has been attended by over 300,000 people, and is broadcast on British TV throughout the weedend.
Many festivals have come and gone as musical tastes have changed and eras have passed - 60s peace, love and happiness, 70s punk nihilism, etc. Against this Glastonbury has perservered for over 20 years, and this documentary does a great job of explaining why.
Glastonbury is the British equivalent of Burning Man, but with commercial music acts thrown into the mix - it shuns commerciality, raises money for good causes, and brings together a diverse mixture of contemporary arts.
The documentary itself is a fantastic mix of live performances, archive footage and interviews. It sketches out the timeline of the festival, which in itself is a reflection of the changes in British society over the last 30 years - social decay in the 70s, the rejection of thatcherism in the 80s, and so on.
The interviews are dominated by Michael Eavis, the festival founder (it takes place on his dairy farm) - an extemely interesting man. This documentary is partly the telling of his own life story - how a Methodist farmer in rural England with an interest in music became a festival promoter, and along the way the became a friend to hippies, new-age travellers, the dance scene, the campaign against nuclear weapons, the green movement, left-wing politics, etc. The film captures his concern for the instituion and its values. This is illustrated by what happened after the festival was gate crashed by over 100,000 people (with over 100,000 paying punters already inside the fence). He realized that something would have to done just to get permits to continue, but most importantly to avoid fatalaties. He invited in a professional security firm, and installed a prison stlye fence around the venue. This secured the future of the festival, but you can tell he was deeply conflicted by the decision.
The performances are wonderful selection of what makes Glastonbury so special - the same festival can attract Coldplay, Radiohead and The Levellers, Bjork, David Bowie, Bily Bragg, etc. It also shows a good variety of the performance art that is so important to the overall mix.
However, I think the most important performance captured on the DVD is that of Joe Strummer. While playing "Staight To Hell", Joe voices his displeasure at the increase in secutiry and CCTV, both at the event and in British scoiety in general. He starts attacking the cameras with his mike stand. Very powerful - a reminder of why he will be rembered as one of the few rock stars to never sell-out. In a way, that performance summarizes this DVD. When the anarchists want to get together rage against the machine, someone has to organize the meeting and make the sandwiches.
For me, this film is up there with Lords of Dogtown, Step Into Liquid, Touching the Void, etc.