Isn't This A Time!

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Despite the blacklisting of the McCarthy witch hunt in the Fifties, and the subsequent corporate attempted appropriation and cooptation of the genre in the Sixties, folk music has managed to serve as a melodic means of challenging the system’s status quo. During the Civil Rights, Anti-War and other conscience-raising movements, these hardy troubadours could be counted on not only to write and sing  inspirational anthems appealing for justice but to be there in person, risking life, limb and career on the front lines at demonstrations, boycotts and marches.

Isn't this a Time!, a documentary dedicated to legendary impresario Harold Leventhal, reunited many of folk’s ever-passionate pioneers for a concert at Carnegie Hall. The admittedly aging performers, many of whom are now octogenarians, include Pete Seeger and The Weavers, Peter, Paul and Mary, Arlo Guthrie, Leon Bibb and Theodore Bikel. However, the picture proves that none has lost their spunk, as they continue to display as much of a commitment to progressive ideas as ever.

Perhaps as precious as the performances captured here on film, is the illuminating history lesson to be gleaned via the artists’ behind-the-scenes reflections. They wistfully recount having to deal with industry censorship, government intimidation and other obstacles placed in the path of their careers on account of their politics.

Plus, the production is sprinkled with numerous informative asides, such as when we learn that the tune “Wimoweh,� which you might recognize by the pop title “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,� did not originate with either The Weavers or with the doo-wop group, The Tokens. In fact, it had been written long before by South African Solomon Linda who had recorded it with a group of fellow Zulus in 1939. In sum, Isn't this a Time! is an alternately invigorating, intoxicating, nostalgic and uplifting testament to the intrepid activists of a bygone era when Americans felt much more comfortable challenging authority.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 90 minutes
Studio: Seventh Art Releasing

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