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Radio Unnameable (2012)
Opened: 09/19/2012 Limited
|Film Forum/NYC||09/19/2012 - 10/02/2012||14 days|
Trailer: Click for trailer
Legendary New York disc jockey Bob Fass revolutionized late night FM radio by serving as a cultural hub for music, politics and audience participation for nearly 50 years. Long before today's innovations in social media, Fass utilized the airwaves for mobilization, encouraging luminaries and ordinary listeners to talk openly, taking the program in surprising directions.
In 1963, one man radically transformed the FM dial. RADIO UNNAMEABLE tells the story of the groundbreaking New York disc jockey Bob Fass and his innovative use of the airwaves to inform, entertain and encourage dialogue amongst listeners. His program is entirely free form, there's no telling what might happen next. It is a place to hear great music, conversations with artists and activists, audio experiments, and where the average listener can discuss local and international issues, from problems with landlords in the Bronx to the war in Afghanistan. Bob Fass is still on the air today, approaching 50 years behind the microphone, and he remains as vital and current as ever.
Radio Unnameable's orbit of listeners are active participants and a key component to the program. Bob Fass's goal was to create a participatory democracy on the air, utilizing this community as an organizing tool, working with listeners to stage protests and events, such as the 1967 "Sweep-In" where listeners gathered to clean up a Lower East Side block during a garbage strike. He has talked callers down from bad trips and even averted a suicide attempt. Parallels can be drawn to today's innovations such as Facebook, Twitter, flash mobs, etc.. The listeners were "citizen reporters" and on Radio Unnameable, every voice is heard.
From the beginning, major cultural figures have dropped by the studio to perform, take calls and engage in the program's spontaneity. The list of notables who've appeared is astounding: Bob Dylan, Abbie Hoffman, Allen Ginsberg, Joni Mitchell, Yoko Ono, Muddy Waters, Timothy Leary amongst many more. The film showcases these appearances alongside current sounds that Fass champions.
As a station, WBAI is filled with volatile internal politics. Fass often finds himself in the middle and as a result has been forced off the air numerous times. One such incident, in the late 1970s, saw him being carried away in handcuffs. The station today is flirting with bankruptcy and many staff members are volunteers, including Fass, who's been unpaid for years. His timeslot is never safe and support at WBAI is tenuous.
As radio is an aural medium, we have established a distinctive style that combines the visual elements with the sounds and voices heard on Radio Unnameable. Sometimes the images will be directly related and other times the connection will be abstract and visceral. The film's palette will consist of 8mm and 16mm film, Hi8 video, VHS and HD. It showcases Bob Fass's extensive archive of thousands of reel-to-reel recordings, photographs, film and video.
Since it's conception, there have been no boundaries for Radio Unnameable. Fass's unique and influential program has blazed a trail for everything from NPR to Howard Stern. RADIO UNNAMEABLE is not only about Bob Fass and his remarkable journey, but also radio's evolving landscape and the necessity for free expression on the airwaves.
About the Filmmakers
Paul Lovelace (Director / Producer / Co-Editor)
Paul Lovelace's documentary short ROBERT CHRISTGAU: ROCK N' ROCK ANIMAL, about the esteemed Village Voice music journalist, won acclaim at film festivals worldwide in 2000. In 2006, Paul wrote and directed THE SONNETS, a 35mm narrative short, which played numerous US film festivals. Also in 2006, Paul wrote, produced, and edited the PBS documentary AMERICAN ROOTS MUSIC: CHICAGO. As an editor, Paul has worked on TV series for The Food Network, Travel Channel amongst others. He has edited commercials and promos for Rock Star Games, Blue Man Group and several music labels. Paul's first documentary feature THE HOLY MODAL ROUNDERS...BOUND TO LOSE, a portrait of the psychedelic folk duo The Holy Modal Rounders, was released theatrically in 2007 and on DVD in 2008. Together with his partner Jessica Wolfson, he has directed and produced several short films that have played renowned international film festivals including the 2009 short HUGO that aired on PBS's Saturday night series REEL 13, NIGHT PEOPLE and IOWA MIXTAPE.
Greg Wright (Editor)
Greg Wright is a Brooklyn based, feature and short form documentary film editor. He's worked on projects that range from marathon trail-runners attempting to circumnavigate Mt. Rainer in a single sprint in THE WONDERLAND PROJECT, to a vivid portrait of the characters behind Compton's notorious low-rider car clubs in SUNDAY DRIVER. He's collaborated on several video art installations in New York and edited and co-produced pilots and TV series for a handful of networks including Bravo, Discovery Networks, MTV and PBS. He is currently cutting DON'T THINK I'VE FORGOTTEN: CAMBODIA'S LOST ROCK AND ROLL. Perennially a devotee to free-form, alternative radio, Greg has held DJ positions at stations WESU and WCNI.
Jessica Wolfson (Director / Producer)
Jessica Wolfson has produced many critically acclaimed documentary films and series. Her recent projects include A GIRL AND A GUN, REVENGE OF THE MEKONS and TRUST US THIS IS ALL MADE UP, which premiered at SXSW 2009. In 2008, she directed and produced the award winning web series GIRLTALK. Jessica co-produced CRAZY SEXY CANCER for TLC in 2007. At IFCtv Original Programming, Jessica developed and produced documentaries including THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED by Kirby Dick; WANDERLUST by Bob Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman; THE BRIDGE by Eric Steele and series GREG THE BUNNY and DINNER FOR FIVE (2005 Emmy nomination). Jessica has managed the grassroots theatrical campaigns for several documentary films. She has worked in marketing and distribution at companies such as B-SIDE ENTERTAINMENT and TRIBECA FILM. Jessica has directed and produced several documentary and narrative short films including NIGHT PEOPLE and IOWA MIXTAPE.
John Pirozzi (Cinematographer)
John Pirozzi has worked as a cinematographer for over 15 years. He has shot many narrative and documentary films including 2007's BROKEN ENGLISH by Zoe Cassavetes, LEONARD COHEN: I'M YOUR MAN by Lian Lunson, and Z CHANNEL: A MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION the Cannes premiered documentary by Xan Cassavetes. Pirozzi has filmed striking second unit photography on films including ALPHA DOG, BOYS DON'T CRY, CITY OF GHOSTS and Jem Cohen's INSTRUMENT. Pirozzi recently directed SLEEPWALKING THROUGH THE MEKONG a documentary about the band Dengue Fever. He is currently in post-production on DON'T THINK I'VE FORGOTTEN: CAMBODIA'S LOST ROCK AND ROLL a documentary about the history of Cambodian rock music.
About Bob Fass
Bob Fass (born June 29, 1933) is an American radio personality and pioneer of free-form radio, who has broadcast in the New York region for 40 years. Fass's program, Radio Unnameable, first aired in 1963 on WBAI, a listener-sponsored, non-commercial radio station operating out of New York City. From the beginning the show featured the work, and impromptu interviews, of counterculture figures such as Paul Krassner, Bob Dylan, and Abbie Hoffman, and the first performances of Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant and Jerry Jeff Walker's Mr. Bojangles among others.
Bob Fass can be heard every Thursday night from midnight to 3am on listener sponsored WBAI 99.5FM or www.WBAI.org.
You can follow him on his blog RadioUnnameable.Blogspot.Com.
WBAI, a part of the Pacifica Radio Network, is a non-commercial, listener-supported radio station, broadcasting at 99.5 FM in New York City. Its programming is leftist/progressive, and a mixture of political news and opinion from a leftist perspective, tinged with aspects of its complex and varied history, such as Freeform radio, which WBAI played a role in developing, as well as various music.
The history of WBAI is long and contentious. Referred to in a New York Times Magazine piece as "an anarchist's circus," one station manager was jailed in protest, and the staff, in protest at sweeping proposed changes of another station manager, seized the studio facilities, then located in a deconsecrated church, as well as the transmitter, located atop the Empire State Building.
WBAI played a major role in the evolution and development of the counterculture in the 1960s and early 1970s. Alice's Restaurant was first broadcast on Radio Unnameable, Bob Fass' Freeform Radio program, a program which itself in many ways created, explored, and defined the possibilities of the form. The station covered the 1968 seizure of the Columbia University campus live and uninterrupted, as well as innumerable anti-war protests. With its signal reaching nearly 70 miles beyond New York City, its reach and influence, both direct and indirect, were significant. Among the station's weekly commentators in the mid- 1960s was author Ayn Rand. The 1964 Political conventions were "covered" satirically on WBAI by Severn Darden, Elaine May, Burns and Schreiber, David Amram, and members of the Second City comedy group. The station presented an annual 24-hour nonstop presentation of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle, held live performances of emerging artists in its studios, and produced and presented interviews with prominent figures in literature and the arts, as well as original highly-produced radio dramas. In 1970, Kathy Dobkin, Milton Hoffman, and Francie Camper produced an unprecedented, critically acclaimed 41/2 day round- the-clock reading of Tolstoy's War And Peace. The epic novel was read cover to cover by more than 200 people--including a large number of international celebrities from various fields. The complete reading (over 200 audio tapes) was the first Pacifica program to be selected for inclusion in the permanent collection of the Museum of Broadcasting in NYC.
In 1973, the station broadcast comedian George Carlin's infamous Filthy Words routine uncensored -- see F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation for a detailed account of the court case that ensued.
Amy Gooman's Democracy Now! is presently WBAI's most influential offering. The station also hosts shows such as Golden Age of Radio serials, Weaponry, a show about military history and technology, Free Speech Radio News, and Wakeup Call. Also included is a regular arts program, the Artsy Fartsy Show with host Barika Taheer Edwards. Others are the weekly science fiction program Hour of the Wolf presented by Jim Freund, and Off The Hook, a program by the 2600 hacker group about the societal implications of communications & security technology and related laws, The Personal Computer Show with Joe King and Hank Kee, and the economic journalism of Doug Henwood. Music programming includes Peter Bochan's All Mixed Up, Liquid Sound Lounge, and David Kenney's Everything Old Is New Again, a mix of pop and jazz standards, show tunes, cabaret and interviews on Sunday evenings.
WBAI also offers programming and specials targeted primarily toward cultural audience segments that are typically under-served by most commercial media outlets. Radio Tahrir (supported in part by the Islamic Center of Long Island and targeted primarily towards Muslims), Out FM (New York's "only progressive queer radio hour"), Joy of Resistance ("multicultural feminist radio"), First Voices Indigenous Radio (a global look at native/indigenous peoples), Radio drama serial The Aliens (one of the few radio drama series to hit the US airwaves since the Golden Age of Radio) focused on inter-cultural relationships around the world, and Asia Pacific Forum (targeted primarily towards Asian Americans) and Al Jazeera are examples of such programming.
Listen live or to the archives at 99.5FM or www.WBAI.org.