Black and white footage of performances, interviews, and conversations at the Newport Folk Festival, from 1963 to 1966. The headliners are Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and Bob Dylan, who’s acoustic and electric. Son House and Mike Bloomfield talk about the blues; John Hurt, Howlin’ Wolf, and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee show its range. The Osborne Brothers perform bluegrass. Donovan, Johnny Cash, Judy Collins, Mimi and Dick Farina, and others less well known also perform. Several talk musical philosophy, and there’s a running commentary about the nature and appeal of folk music. The crowd looks clean cut.
User Reviews: Festival is sadly among the missing documents of an era in popular music that continues to fascinate. After a brief theatrical run in 1967, the film continued to show up at repertory theaters through the next decade. But with the advent of home video, problems with wider distribution arose, due to clearing music performance rights. Thus, any opportunity to see this film should be taken. Director Murray Lerner hung out at four Newport Folk Festivals (1963-1966), recording performances, interviews, and crowd shots. Editing all of this footage into less than 100 minutes of film inevitably meant compromises; there are no complete performances, the interviews are brief. But the feeling for an era remains, and the most electric moment (literally) involves that famous (or infamous) 1965 performance by Bob Dylan, when he plugged in his guitar and played with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Among the highlights are several involving veteran bluesmen like Son House breaking through to a mostly white, college-age crowd.