The Weavers: Wasn’t That a Time! (1982)

“The future ain’t what it used to be — and what’s more, it never was.”

Weavers Poster

Synopsis:
The Weavers — an influential folk group blacklisted during the McCarthy era — reunite for a final set of concerts at Carnegie Hall.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this little-seen documentary on the Weavers — “the most famous and influential folk-singing group of all time” — is both “uplifting and informative.” Director Jim Brown impressively incorporates past and present footage into a seamlessly enjoyable film; and while it would perhaps have been interesting to learn a little more about how each of the Weavers coped with being blacklisted, I was secretly pleased by the movie’s focus on the pure joy of their music making. Singer Lee Hays (who died nine months after the making of the documentary) initiated the group’s final reunion, and serves as the film’s droll, entertaining narrator. Although his voice is no longer what it used to be, it’s still incredibly moving to watch him and his partners — Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, and Fred Hellerman — “gaining confidence when their singing immediately clicks.” As Peary notes, what the 78-minute film could definitely have used even more of is footage from the group’s two sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall — there was no need to cut this piece of things so short.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Countless rousing and memorable songs — including “If I Had a Hammer” (written by Lee Hays and Pete Seeger) and “Good Night, Irene”
  • Folk singer Holly Near describing the influence Ronnie Gilbert had on her

Must See?
Yes. As a likely inspiration for Christopher Guest et al.’s mockumentary A Mighty Wind (2003), it’s worth watching for this reason alone — but chances are you’ll enjoy the film on its own merits.

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