F.T.A.

F.T.A.

Director: Francine Parker

Cast: Francine Parker, Michael Alaimo, Len Chandler, Pamela Donegan

     
 
While F.T.A. has been making the rounds as a fuzzy-looking bootleg video for years, Docudrama Films' DVD release of this little-seen documentary about Jane Fonda's touring anti-war show for American military personnel during the Vietnam War marks the movie's first authorized appearance on home video. F.T.A. (meaning either "Free The Army" or "F--k the

Overview

While F.T.A. has been making the rounds as a fuzzy-looking bootleg video for years, Docudrama Films' DVD release of this little-seen documentary about Jane Fonda's touring anti-war show for American military personnel during the Vietnam War marks the movie's first authorized appearance on home video. F.T.A. (meaning either "Free The Army" or "F--k the Army" depending on how frank the cast wanted to be at any given moment) has been transferred to disc in widescreen format, letterboxed at 1.78:1 on conventional televisions and enhanced for anamorphic playback on 16x9 monitors. The source print is less than perfect, showing some black speckling throughout, but there are very few emulsion scratches and the sharpness and color balance of the transfer are very good indeed, and given how bad most of the pirate editions of F.T.A. looked (some so poor that the credits and subtitles were all but impossible to read), this is a remarkable improvement and looks at least as good as most documentary films of the period. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Stereo, retaining the original monophonic sound mix, and the fidelity is good, though only so much can be done with field recordings from the early 1970's. The sketches and interviews are mostly in English (those that aren't are translated with burned-in subtitles), with no multiple language options or subtitles included. As a bonus, this disc includes a twenty-minute interview with Jane Fonda conducted for this release in which she talks with no small emotion about the creation and evolution of the F.T.A. show, the making of the documentary, and her feelings both positive and negative about the project more than thirty-five years later. F.T.A. is a bit shaky as entertainment, but as a glimpse of a crucial moment in American history it's invaluable, and Docudrama Films are to be congratulated for finally making the film available to a wide audience for the first time.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
No actress of her generation was as willing to stand before the barricades during the political and social upheaval of the late 1960s and early 70s as Jane Fonda, and she paid a price for her activism, dropping out of public favor and being treated like box-office poison until she began embracing aerobic dancing and light comedies in the late 70s. Fonda would later nod to her activist past with projects like The China Syndrome and Coming Home, but they addressed their issues in a far less confrontational manner than Fonda did when she was working with the likes of Jean-Luc Godard. In 1971, Fonda and a group of activist performers created a "political vaudeville" show called F.T.A. which was intended as a countercultural response to Bob Hope's annual shows for the troops in Vietnam; performed at G.I. coffeehouses and venues near military bases, the F.T.A. show (the name coming from a bit of G.I. slang, an acronym for "F--k the Army") was a demonstration of support for the growing anti-war movement among America's enlisted men (a phenomena chronicled in David Zeiger's superb documentary Sir! No Sir!). When Fonda took the F.T.A. show overseas for a tour, playing to thousands of servicemen in Hawaii, Japan, Okinawa and the Philippines, a camera crew tagged along and Francine Parker's film F.T.A offers glimpses of the show as well as the media circus that followed Fonda and her fellow performers, along with interviews with some of the soldiers they met along the way. For decades, F.T.A. was something of a phantom in Fonda's filmography; American International Pictures opened the film on July 14, 1972, and a day later news broke that Fonda had made an ill-advised visit to Hanoi during a trip to Vietnam and spoke on North Vietnamese radio. Suddenly F.T.A. became a political hot potato, and after only a week in theaters AIP pulled it from release. The film became all but impossible to see after that; many have speculated that AIP knuckled under to political pressure to bury the film, and that Fonda (who produced the picture) was responsible for keeping it under wraps as she tried to distance herself from her reputation as "Hanoi Jane" in the 80s and 90s. (In 2001, when the Film Society of Lincoln Center presented a lengthy retrospective of Fonda's work, F.T.A. was conspicuous in its absence.) When clips from F.T.A. popped up in Sir! No Sir!, it marked the first time in years that Fonda was willing to acknowledge the film (and the show) existed, and in early 2009 she appeared at a screening of a restored print of F.T.A. in anticipation of its release on DVD. Seen thirty-six years after its scuttled theatrical release and a hazy second life on crummy-looking bootleg videos, what's most surprising about F.T.A. is that the show itself almost seems beside the point. Fonda is a bundle of crackling enthusiasm on stage and a real team player, but her chops as a sketch comic in F.T.A. probably wouldn't have gotten her a callback for MAD TV, and Michael Alaimo's broad, eye-rolling shtick fares even worse, especially given how painfully obvious some of his material reads all these years later. Donald Sutherland seems far looser and more comfortable before an audience than most of his cast mates; his bit doing football-style play-by-play commentary on a battle in progress is easily the funniest thing in the movie, while his closing reading from Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun is genuinely powerful stuff. And while Rita Martinson and Len Chandler's musical performances are strong, their songs are less impressive, even if they do go over with their intended audiences. It's what happens between shows that really resonates in F.T.A.; Fonda, Sutherland and the rest of the cast are often seen talking with soldiers who came out to see the show, a few of whom also appear on stage, and what they have to say about their experiences is the real meat of this film. From African-Americans complaining about racial inequality in the military and WAF's discussing sexual double standards in the Air Force to ordinary foot soldiers talking about how what they've seen and what they've been ordered to do has altered their views about the war, F.T.A. is at its best when Fonda and Parker let the soldiers fighting the war take center stage. Their words possess a blunt eloquence that the well-intentioned songs and skits lack, and while the stage show has dated, many of the interviews with G.I.'s seem painfully timely as America struggles with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many still accuse Fonda of being a traitor who betrayed America's fighting men and women during Vietnam, but ultimately F.T.A. is a real and heartfelt message of support to the troops who were left to fight a war they could not believe in, and this film makes the point that she and her cohorts had plenty of love for the soldiers who fought the battles, even as they voiced their contempt for their commanders and the war itself. After seeing F.T.A., it's hard to imagine why Fonda would keep it from being shown, as it says far more positive things about her days as an anti-war activist than offering support to her critics.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/24/2009
UPC:
0767685146163
Original Release:
1972
Rating:
NR
Source:
New Video Group
Time:
1:37:00
Sales rank:
88,035

Special Features

Update: Interview with Jane Fonda

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Michael Alaimo Actor
Len Chandler Actor
Pamela Donegan Actor
Jane Fonda Actor
Holly Near Actor
Donald Sutherland Actor
Paul Mooney Actor
Steve Jaffe Participant
Rita Martinson Participant

Technical Credits
Francine Parker Director,Producer
Michael Alaimo Screenwriter
Aminadav Aloni Score Composer
Michael Beaudry Editor
Howard Chesley Sound/Sound Designer
Pamela Donegan Screenwriter
Jane Fonda Producer,Screenwriter
Robin Menken Screenwriter
Holly Near Screenwriter
Eric Saarinen Cinematographer
Nina Schulman Sound/Sound Designer
Donald Sutherland Producer,Screenwriter
Dalton Trumbo Screenwriter
Julianna Wang Cinematographer
Joan Weidman Cinematographer
Yale Zimmerman Score Composer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- F.T.A.
1. On the World Stage [10:07]
2. The Playing Field [6:47]
3. A Brand-New Day [10:34]
4. A Racist War [8:26]
5. A Genocidal War [5:25]
6. FTA in the Philippines [12:51]
7. The Movement's Moving On [9:01]
8. A Bomb's Aftermath [7:40]
9. Save Our Soldiers [4:42]
10. Prejudice on Base [9:07]
11. No One Knows [9:01]
12. Point the Gun [3:15]

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