What is the point of HERE COME THE VIDEOFREEX? As a record of the late sixties and early seventies counterculture, it certainly has historical value. The treasure trove of archival material is truly invaluable to anyone interested in the era. But, more importantly, what is the point of this documentary and its subjects right now?
Any technological shifts in how we create or record images should be understood as political in nature. The printing press allowed for mass production and distribution of ideas and concepts. Filmmaking gave this country a shared set of images that would create standards for beauty and morality. The introduction of the video camera in the late sixties provided an equally seismic shift.
Simply put, this new technology democratized image making, affecting both what was recorded and who did the recording. The Videofreex - both the collective and the documentary - understand that the video camera is inherently political, and its early practitioners endeavor to use it accordingly. The video camera, for the purposes of this documentary, is therefore irrevocably linked with the youth counterculture of the late sixties and seventies, with antiwar protests, with civil rights, and with women's liberation.
The very material - the magnetic tape - of the video camera carries ideological weight. The higher frame rate creates a sense of immediacy that standardized filmmaking lacks. Paradoxically, the adoption of these format by news programs, low-budget television shows and pornography in the subsequent decades would condition viewers to perceive the highly fidelity footage as more "fake-looking." But, for a time, it felt the most true.
Still, none of this background in and of itself justifies the relevance of HERE COME THE VIDEOFREEX for a modern audience. In fact, the treatment of this dusty - or, more apt, moldy - tapes merely as archival footage of a forgotten era runs counter to the intention of the image makers and the nature of the equipment with which they worked. The instantaneity of the video camera is key - from the ability to playback what you just recorded to the emphasis the Videofreex had placed on the here and now in that footage.
Once again, image making is undergoing a revolution. The democracy promised by the invention of the video camera has become realized in the twenty-first century. Kids and young adults angry at the previous generation and at the system at large have the capacity to document their lives and their struggles in the palm of their hands. Moreover, they have the means to distribute and share their footage with the world at large, the greatest barrier faced by their video-making predecessors.
HERE COME THE VIDEOFREEX - a title teeming with immediacy of the titular collective and their footage - ends by linking the revolution of video to that of the camera phone. The old radicals pass on the torch to a the new, ready to tell their own narratives their own ways, to hold those in power accountable, and to continue the fight.