Robert Kramer Retrospective:
FALN & The People’s War
Director: Robert Kramer & Peter Gessner /
Newsreel #43: Robert Kramer, John Douglas & Norm Fruchter
USA / 1965 / 1969 / 30 min / 40 min
International solidarity with Third World liberation struggle, above all the Vietnamese struggle against U.S. aggression, was central to New Left politicking of the 1960s. FALN, which Kramer produced with Peter Gessner, a crucial early collaborator who would take a leading role in Newsreel, examined the guerrilla struggle in Venezuela during the early ’60s. A compilation film fashioned with footage surreptitiously provided the filmmakers by local “communists” and a narration composed by Kramer, who at this time still possessed a lingering desire to be a novelist and journalist, FALN critiqued American imperialism as it was escalating to apocalyptic proportions on the Indochina Peninsula. The People’s War carries these international commitments to their extremes. With Kramer traveling to North Vietnam with Norman Fruchter and John Douglas on behalf of Newsreel in July-August 1969, the film was produced with the cooperation of cultural committees in the North as well as the insurgent National Liberation Front in the South. The 12,000 feet of footage shot was initially seized by U.S. Customs because it purportedly advocated domestic insurrection. Though replete with trenchant juxtapositions contrasting American atrocities with Vietnamese resilience characteristic of anti-war films of the time, The People’s War is equally exemplified by an intimate, on-the-ground perspective that aspired, above all, toward a cinematic solidarity between the Vietnamese and domestic viewers who might see their own liberation mirrored 10,000 miles away.