A Decade Under the Influence

Institute History

  • 2003 Sundance Film Festival


In its ongoing arabesque with social concerns, American film occasionally manifests profound connections with public life—for instance, disseminating the ideals of urbanization and the duties of a populace in wartime. But nothing in American film history parallels the period in the 1970s when a generation of filmmakers set out to express the countercultural sentiment of the time and convinced studio heads that this exploration was in their interests, too. The decade-long experiment that followed produced a uniquely defiant and relevant national cinema, aggressively taking the currency of women's liberation and the antiwar movement and the assumption of widespread political corruption as guiding principles.

Filmmakers Richard LaGravenese and Ted Demme astutely chronicle this unprecedented blossoming, reaping a wealth of interviews with such luminaries as Francis Ford Coppola, William Friedkin, Julie Christie, Ellen Burstyn, and Polly Platt. These are interspersed with a cornucopia of clips from '70s classic films, including Easy Rider, M.A.S.H., and Coming Home.

Though the film bemoans the end of these glory days due to market forces, it justly recognizes the artists who took a rare opportunity and left a vital and lasting contribution to America's national cinema and identity.

— Shannon Kelley

Screening Details

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