Fueled by outrage over racism and the Vietnam War, the Weather Underground waged a low-level war against the government throughout much of the 1970s—bombing the Capitol building, breaking Timothy Leary out of prison, and evading one of the largest FBI manhunts in history. The Weather Underground is a feature-length documentary that explores the rise and fall of this radical movement, as former members speak candidly about the idealistic passion that drove them to “bring the war home.” Starring Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, Mark Rudd, David Gilbert, Brian Flanagan, Laura Whitehorn, Naomi Jaffe Kathleen Cleaver, and Todd Gitlin.

 

On Wednesday night, October 22, 1969, a delivery truck arrived at the front of Masonic Auditorium, amidst the glamour and clamor of the opening night of the San Francisco International Film Festival. The driver, a husky pastry chef, apparently in a hurry, attempted to run a huge tray of creamy pies up the red-carpeted stairs. In the rush, the precarious arrangement of pies went flying, and, almost magically, the oddest assortment of characters descended—a nun, a football player, and a go-go dancer among them. What ensued was a most memorable yet virtually forgotten piece of San Francisco’s cinema history.

Led by late filmmaker Peter Adair (Holy Ghost People, Word is Out), the band of radicals called themselves Grand Central Station. Their hope was to create a huge splash—a media event that would attract investors to the group’s numerous, unfunded feature-film projects. Staging a silent-era pie fight at the black tie event was also a perfect way to protest the bloated, bourgeois affair the Festival had become.

Equipped with some half a dozen cameras, the group, numbering nearly thirty, emerged from the crowd of tuxes and gowns once the delivery truck (with “Grand Central Station Pies” printed on the side) arrived. As jesters, nuns, and mimes flung pies, towels, printed with the Grand Central Station manifesto, were supplied to any bystanders that got creamed. The pastry melee splattered across headlines for two days (“Hippies Invade Film Festival”); even Mayor Alioto heightened the coverage by wanting to charge the no-goodniks with a felony.

Despite the huge amount of publicity generated by the pie-fight, no movie offers came in for Grand Central Station. Several months later, the members of group all went their separate ways. And the rolls of film they shot of the event were lost for almost 30 years, until San Francisco filmmaker Bill Daniel discovered them recently in an unmarked box sitting in a corner at Artist’s Television Access, an underground film venue.

Pie Fight ’69 documents this wacky event, constructed from the original footage shot by Grand Central Station and from news coverage and personal accounts. Preserving the seat-of-the-pants flavor of the pie tossing, Pie Fight ’69 attempts to bookmark a nearly forgotten moment in 60’s counter-cultural radicalism, as well as set a page in the histories of San Francisco’s underground film community and the SF International Film Festival.

Sarah Jacobson (1971–2004) was a legendary San Francisco underground filmmaker, as well as a great pal and inspiration. Sarah was extremely passionate about things––when she was interesting in something, she made the world stand up and take notice. In the early 2000s, Sarah become obsessed with the 1981 cult film Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. I had never even heard of the movie, but when Sarah showed me a bootlegged VHS copy, it blew my mind. The Fabulous Stains is definitely one of the weirdest movies ever made, but weird in a fascinating way! The congruence of people and social forces that came together in the film, not to mention the ambition and failure and all that…

Anyway, Sarah pitched doing a piece about The Stains to John Pierson, who had a TV show about indie film on some cable channel at that time. John liked Sarah and loved the idea for the piece––I think he’d actually even shown The Stains way back in the early 1980s.

Sarah didn’t have a lot of experience with documentary, so she asked me to work with her on the project. It ended up being a real collaboration, and I learned a lot from Sarah. She was meticulous about music editing, and also had very strong opinions in the edit room. Needless to say, we fought! But we had a great time making the piece, and I still think of it, and my time working with Sarah, fondly.

And thanks entirely to Sarah’s tireless championing of The Stains, in 2008 Rhino recently re-released it.

Millions of Americans have seen Rollen Frederick Stewart, a.k.a. “Rainbow Man,” a man who achieved notoriety during the late 70s by appearing in the crowd at thousands of televised sporting events wearing his trademark rainbow-colored afro wig. Later, after he became a born-again Christian, he added a sign reading “John 3:16.” Over the years, grabbing the attention of the media became an obsession for Stewart. He abandoned his home and marriage to roam the country living out of his car, studying TV Guide each week in a never-ending quest to stay televised… with tragic consequences. “More than an exploration of life, The Rainbow Man is a parable about alienation, the media, and the meaninglessness that often defines American life.” – Trevor Groth, Sundance Film Festival