Reel Dad: Remastered film 'F.T.A' takes viewers back to Vietnam War era Jane Fonda

Movie poster for "F.T.A."

Movie poster for “F.T.A.”

IMDb / Contributed photo

There’s a moment in the recently remastered documentary “F.T.A.” when a young Jane Fonda grabs a hat and cane and, with a partner, delights a standing-room-only crowd with an entertaining song and dance about America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. As someone who has cherished Fonda for decades, I thought I had seen her do just about everything on stage or screen. But I never expected the two time Oscar winner to emerge as a musical performer. Even for just a moment.

The chance to experience a singing and dancing Fonda aside, watching “F.T.A.” nearly 50 years after it was briefly released takes us back to a time when speaking against U.S. participation in a war was not yet ready for public consumption. This time capsule of a film - beautifully shot and assembled in 1972 by Francine Parker -deserved a better fate than to quickly disappear from our screens and our memories. At the time, Parker had something to say about the free speech. That message, as timely as it was way back then, is even more essential today. Fortunately, this movie has reappeared.

“F.T.A.” - the acronym standing for various expressions including “free the army” - was initially billed as a “political vaudeville” that toured U.S. military bases in Hawaii, the Philippines, Okinawa and Japan in 1971 during the Vietnam War. By this time, Fonda was well known for her views on America’s involvement in this conflict and, despite resistance to her opinions, she was able to book the show before audiences of American soldiers. Moviemaker Parker captures the exuberance on stage, and the excitement in the crowds, as Fonda, Donald Sutherland and others from Hollywood perform songs and sketches that make fun of certain aspects of the conflict while calling for the end to our country’s involvement in another land’s dispute. As the film celebrates the spontaneity of the performances, what fascinates is how it captures what’s inside the hearts of the soldiers in the audience. Years later, the events on stage amuse while the thoughtful observations of the crowd remind us why so many voices are needed to create any type of rich discussion.

Looking back, making sure all voices were heard may not have been a national priority in 1972 when the film was released. Despite strong reviews, “F.T.A.” was pulled from theaters a week after it arrived, seemingly never to be heard of again. Now thanks to IndieCollect, with funding from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, this restoration enables us to look at the film, the experience it preserves, as well as the times it illustrates. We learn from this journey that, no matter what we may not want to hear, we have few good reasons to stop listening. Everything we see today in “F.T.A.,” just as it first appeared on screen years ago, emerges from the passion these people express for what the United States can be as well as the fear of what we become when we forget ourselves. That’s why this old movie feels, all of sudden, so very new.

Plus, we get to see Fonda sing and dance.

“F.T.A.” runs 1 hour, 37 minutes. The film is rated R. It is available for streaming at The Brattlite virtual cinema at watch.eventive.org/brattletheatre.

Summary: F.T.A.

Content: High. This restored documentary, from 1972, captures the energy behind voices that articulate resistance to American involvement in the Vietnam War.

Entertainment: High. Thanks to the efforts of IndieCollect, this film can be seen for the first time since it was first released and quickly withdrawn.

Message: High. How the performers on stage package their views, and how members of the audience react to what they see and hear, creates a fascinating look at what we learn when we listen.

Relevance: High. Any opportunity to look back in time to rediscover lessons that may apply today can be relevant.

Opportunity for Dialogue: High. The movie can prompt conversation between you and your older children about a moment in time in American history. But it's not a film for the entire family.