Free For All

the Reds, the Whites and the Blues

Theme and variation on the flag in in 4 minutes and 125 color images. Originally called Webfooted Friends (a film that has nothing to do with ducks), the imagery now has been shortened, expanded, remastered, and given new life, rendered as an HD video.
The publicity sheet for the original film:

WEBFOOTED FRIENDS (a film that has nothing to do with ducks)

a 52 star attraction.

a satiric celebration of the American craze for painting the Colors all over the landscape.

a national holiday, all by itself.

WEBFOOTED FRIENDS is a 5 minute film made from 118 stills, with music by improvisation & John Philip Sousa, and with the help of Ariel Fragment. In color, in 35mm, with optical sound.

In 1976, the film was previewed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C,, at the Oakland Museum and at the San Francisco Art Institute, each time to an enthusiastic response.

WEBFOOTED FRIENDS premiered early in July of 1977 at the Act One in Berkeley, California and played for three and a half months with BLACK AND WHITE IN COLOR, the Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film. The short opened next in San Francisco at the Regency II, with SEMI-TOUGH, 11-18-77 to 1-5-78. WEBFOOTED FRIENDS then moved to New York, where it played at The Fine Arts, a Walter Reade Theater, for four weeks.

WEBFOOTED FRIENDS also has been shown at the following International Film Festivals: Nyon, London, Tampere, Sydney, Moscow, the Virgin Islands, Cracow and Prindle Corners. Coe Films (N.Y.) has been exclusive TV distributor: under their auspices, the film has appeared on French, Polish and Irish National TV, and regularly yearly on Showtime in the U.S.

WEBFOOTED FRIENDS: "A very lively and highly amusing satire/celebration of the American use of red, white and blue," Ken Wlaschin, the London Film Festival, 1977.

Stills from the film appeared in Esquire (2 pages 12/75), Communication Arts (4 pages, 6/76) and on the covers of Sky and Media & Methods. The first three appearances were included in the "Bicentennial in Print" show, sponsored by the Washington Art Director's Club and the Federal Design Council.

Inquiries invited:
The flag as a tone poem, as an evolving surprise, as historical record, as history itself, as a satire/ celebration of the U.S. craze for painting the colors of the flag all over the landscape is the visual substance of this film.

The flag as entertainment, as creative surprise expanding horizons, can also teach. A nation is it people and their expression of themselves. The multiplicity of minds that define the U.S. is ours to meet daily. This video is a political Rorschach. What you bring to it you’ll find yourself believing. As a satire/ celebration though, its images provoke negatively and positively at once. Yes, permission for satire is reason to celebrate. By suggesting the flag where there is none and showing it in unusual uses, the viewer is shocked into awareness, and will reach beyond conventions, to reveal his or her larger response. Of course, the video has a bias, that the flag belongs to us collectively and individually equally and we can create new meanings with it.

In fact he resurgence of American folk art combined with the need to assert our freedoms produced a wide variety of images during the Bicentennial. Collectively and in counterpoint, the images not only individualize our approach to the flag and create a standard of design, but take many rigid associations for an imaginative ride.

The film initially was an experiment in social definition and political design. Many of the original photos appeared in magazines previously and became a gallery show. In the end, the images blot both ways, are meant to. People define themselves in their response. Vision, in short, is a Mindset.

The images are historical now, but history doesn't go away; it insists on itself; it seeds the ground, it scents the air, it becomes part of our language. Simply, this small film/video deserves a place both in the archives of our time and in the lights of our consciousness.

Photographer: Elihu Blotnick's photographs appeared in Esquire, Camera, Harpers and Life. His work was exhibited at the Stedelijk (the museum of modern art in Amsterdam), the Photokina in Cologne (the world's largest photographic trade show), and the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. He has photographs in special collections at the Library of Congress and the California Historical Society. The New York Times wrote about his first book (SALTWATER FLATS, BBM Associates, 1975), "Powerful and very personal images of contemporary America."

Notes and Background: The original film was only 5 minutes and in effect, due to the minimum of animation, a slide show, driven by the music. Nevertheless, the film had numerous theatrical and television showings, on a continuing basis. The film is a montage of individual expressions of our national identity, in terms of the colors of the flag. The imagery was made, for the most part, before personal computers and digital applications, and for the most part, the images say flag even when none is in the picture or, by displaying a spirited individual approach, are a vote for expressive freedom.

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