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Free the Army

Ghetto streets lead nowhere
 And ghetto cries fill the air.
 Uncle Sam’s in Nam to loot and rob
 And people starve at home cause there’s no jobs.
                                — Rita Martinson

‘Soldier, We Love You’ by Rita Martinson is a song from the anti-war film F.T.A. The song is about a black American soldier who was jailed for refusing to kill in Vietnam.

***

F.T.A.

The initials F.T.A. stand for “Free The Army” which was also a play on the troop expression  “Fuck The Army” (which in turn was a play on the army slogan “Fun, Travel and Adventure”).

This documentary (feature film) directed by Francine Parker (1925 – 2007) was originally released theatrically in the US in mid July 1972.

The film debuted in theaters the same week that actress Jane Fonda controversially visited Hanoi i.e. consorting with the enemy (many will recall Fonda being dubbed “Hanoi Jane” by the press).

The film was quickly pulled from cinemas very soon after its initial release by its distributor American International Pictures headed by Samuel Z. Arkoff. The film completely disappeared seemingly without trace for over 30 years.

It is hard to draw any other conclusion than the film was very successfully suppressed for political reasons. It was clearly a political hot potato at the time.    There was never any official explanation for the disappearance, but Arkoff said privately that he was pressured to do it and reportedly destroyed all prints.

The movie documents the F.T.A. tour which was first organized in April 1970 by activist Fred Gardner (who also acted as stage manager) with a troupe of talented artists which included actors Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and protest singer Holly Near (a cast member of the Broadway musical Hair in 1970).

The tour coincided with a massive GI movement to end the Vietnam war which was sweeping through troops in 1971 and was wreaking havoc on the U.S. military.

The F.T.A. tour was an anti-Vietnam War theatrical road show (referred to as “political vaudeville” by Jane Fonda in the film). It was a caustic, electrifying, sharply anti-war comedy review featuring the celebrities Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland (who were also co-producers of the film).

The tour visited military towns along the West Coast of the US with the aim of establishing a dialogue with soldiers about their upcoming deployments to the war in Vietnam. The show eventually toured to venues outside military bases around the Pacific rim from Guam to the Philippines. This traveling road show for soldiers was also meant to counter USO shows put on by Bob Hope.

Jump forward 33 years and thankfully the original documentary film (97 minutes) has resurfaced again.

F.T.A. was  shown at a Directors Guild of America screening in 2005. It is worth noting that Francine Parker was the first female member of the Directors Guild of America. At the screening, director Oliver Stone told the audience that the film’s director had concluded that “calls were made from high up in Washington, possibly from the Nixon White House, and the film just disappeared.” In the context of those times this of course is extremely easy to believe.

F.T.A. was screened again at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam (IDFA) in November 2007. The director, Francine Parker, was scheduled to attend this screening but she died very shortly before the festival took place (earlier the same month).

The film was shown publicly in New York and Los Angeles in early 2009……..after some 37 years had elapsed. The film was screened twice at the IFC Center in New York where Jane Fonda introduced the screenings.  It was also shown at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles with a panel that included two of the original performers in the show. It was subsequently broadcast on the Sundance cable TV channel that same year.

One of David Zeiger’s companies (Displaced Films) had purchased the rights to the original film from the director’s estate after her death and released an official DVD of F.T.A. on 24th February 2009.

So the film is no longer lost but it still remains a relatively unknown document of those times. David Zeiger described the film as a “lost classic” which is a fitting description.

If the theatrical run of the film in 1972 had not been hijacked, I suspect the film would be as well known today as, say, the movies Woodstock, Easy Rider and similar films from that era.

F.T.A.
Directed by Francine Parker
Produced by Francine Parker, Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland
Written by Michael Alaimo, Len Chandler, Pamala Donegan, Jane Fonda, Rita Martinson, Robin Menken, Holly Near, Donald Sutherland, Dalton Trumbo
Songs by Len Chandler, Robin Menken, Rita Martinson, Kinturozn, Homer Swan, Beverly Grant
Post-Production Supervisor: Igor Kantor
Production Coordinator: Judy Reidel
Technical Director: Jay Stephens, Yale Zimmerman
Cinematographers: Julianna Wang, Eric Saarinen, John Weidman
Sound: Claude LaRose, Howard Chesley, Nina Schulman
Editors: Joel Moorwood, Michael Beaudry
Music Supervisor: Aminadav Aloni
Music: Aminadav Aloni, Yale Zimmerman
Choreographer: Sylvia Walden
Production Companies: Duque Films, Free Theater Associates
Theatrical Distributor: American International Pictures
Now distributed by Displaced Films on DVD © 2009
http://www.sirnosir.com/FTA.html

***
Soldier, We Love You

I read that you took a stand
And refused to kill in Vietnam.
You said no man was your enemy
What he’s fighting for is to be free.

Ghetto streets lead nowhere
And ghetto cries fill the air.
Uncle Sam’s in Nam to loot and rob
And people starve at home cause there’s no jobs.

Oh ain’t it hard
To smile sometimes?
I know it’s hard
To smile sometimes.

But soldier, we love you
Yeah, soldier we love you
Standing strong
‘Cause it’s hard to do
What you know you must do
Cause it’s true
Yes, it’s true.

They locked you up in their stockades
Yeah, they locked you up ’cause they’re afraid
That you would rap and spread the word
But you can’t jail truth, it will be heard.

Oh, ain’t it hard
To smile sometimes?
I know it’s hard
To smile sometimes.

But soldier, we love you
Yeah, brave soldier we love you
Standing strong
Yes, it’s hard to do
What you know you must do
Cause it’s true
Yes, it’s true.

And soon there will be others too
Who refuse to fight and stand with you
Yes they’ll raise a fist high in the air
Say we are not going anywhere

Oh ain’t it hard
To smile sometimes?
I know it’s hard
To smile sometimes.

But soldier, we love you
Brave soldier we love you
Standing strong
Yes it’s hard to do
What you know you must do
Cause it’s true
Yes, it’s true.

We love you.

(Music and words by Rita Martinson)

2 responses to “Free the Army

  1. Soldier, we love you

    Like

  2. Viola Wilkins

    video on you tube here http://youtu.be/7iMusPYq83g

    Like

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