The Daily Stream: F.T.A. Had Been Unavailable For Years, Its Message Too Dangerous — Now It's On Netflix

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "F.T.A."

Where You Can Watch It: Netflix

The Pitch: Want to see how a movement catalyzes and spreads without social media? Or perhaps you're old enough to remember old-school pamphlet disseminations and secret coffeehouses used for resistance planning. Either way, "F.T.A." is a fantastic, raw glimpse into the G.I. anti-war movement of the '60s and '70s. Filmed with a bare-bones production and directed by Francine Parker, the film is a concert documentary following the Pacific leg of an anti-war roadshow for American troops, with headliners Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland (who had just made the immaculate Allan Pakula thriller "Klute" the year prior). 

The movie, featuring sketches mocking the arrogance of military brass and folk songs supporting dissenters, was released in 1972, just before Fonda made the infamous trip to Hanoi that complicated her reputation for decades to come. Naturally, "F.T.A." got some heavy flack upon release, and was pulled from theaters under "mysterious circumstances," according to filmmaker David Zeiger. Zieger wrote, directed, and produced a more broad account of the G.I. resistance movement in his 2005 documentary "Sir! No Sir!," which is also streaming on Netflix for a fine double feature.

Why It's Essential Viewing

My Dad is a WWII history buff, so anytime Time Magazine put out one of their special war-centric issues, there was immediately a copy on the coffee table in our home. I remember reading about the old USO tours they'd have with The Andrews Sisters singing "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" for the troops, and Bob Hope would crack a joke or two for morale. But this — this is something else. 

Remember, many of the troops in Vietnam weren't thrilled to be there, they were conscripted. They were too poor to get a college deferment. They were working-class, and people of color. And during the Vietnam conflict, many of these folks faced oppression back home. So instead of The Andrews Sisters, audiences got a Murderer's Row of talent — Fonda, Sutherland, Michael Alaimo, Len Chandler, Paul Mooney, and Peter Boyle are in the troupe, among others — to perform songs, poetry, and skits in support of them and everything they're dealing with, while denouncing the war they've been voluntold to fight in the first place. The F.T.A. Show — ostensibly "Free The Army," but we know what the F is really for — aimed to show G.I.s that, according to their mission statement, "if there is to be an end to the U.S. military involvement in South East Asia — an end to the war — it is they who must end it."

Bare-bones on the production level but explosive in its energy, "F.T.A." is a fascinating peek into an era when you had to do more than retweet to spread the message.