Peter Whitehead and the Sixties

Fascinating document of the radical, experimental, literary and theatrical scenes of 60s London.

Legendary filmmaker Peter Whitehead was at the heart of Swinging London, chronicling the youth explosion, the burgeoning popular music scene and the counterculture of the 1960s. In March the National Film Theatre hosted a comprehensive retrospective of his work. This DVD features two of his films; Wholly Communion (1965) and Benefit of the Doubt (1967), coupled with a new interview with Peter and additional rare footage. With over three hours of material, Peter Whitehead and the Sixties is a fascinating document of the radical, experimental, literary and theatrical scenes of 60s London.

On 11 June 1965, the Royal Albert Hall played host to a slew of American and European beat poets for an extraordinary impromptu event – the International Poetry Incarnation – that arguably marked the birth of London’s gestating counterculture. Cast in the role of historian, as a man-on-the-scene, and massively elevating his limited resources, Whitehead constructed the extraordinary Wholly Communion from the unfolding circus. As Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, Harry Fainlight, Alexander Trocchi and others took to the stage, Whitehead confidently wandered with his borrowed camera, creating a participatory and anarchic film that is as much a landmark as the event itself, and launched his career.

Following this success, Whitehead was invited to film a controversial new play, US, by radical theatre director Peter Brook. Building on the provocative question of Britain’s relationship to America during the Vietnam War, Whitehead pushed the issue of complicity further, challenging the relationship between the actors – including a young Glenda Jackson – and their performances. Steadfast and provocative in its consideration of international relations and war, Benefit of the Doubt has troubling relevance to the current political climate.

Special features

  • Exclusive interview with Peter Whitehead.
  • Jeanette Cochrane (1967): an experimental Whitehead short not seen since the year of production, featuring music by Pink Floyd.
  • Footage of Vanessa Redgrave singing and playing guitar in the Royal Albert Hall in 1966, shot by Whitehead.
  • Stills gallery of images taken on 11 June 1965 by internationally renowned moving image artist, David Larcher.

Product information

    • Certificate

      Exempt

    • Colour

      Black/white

    • Sound

      Sound

    • Running time

      189mins

    • Subtitles

      English for the hard-of-hearing

    • Original aspect ratio

      04:03

    • DVD region

      • 2 Europe (except Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), Middle East, Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Greenland, French Overseas departments and territories

    • Catalogue number

      BFIVD750

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