"Festival!"

Footage from this long-lost documentary made for some of the most compelling scenes in Martin Scorsese's No Direction Home. It was fortuitous that Murray Lerner's cameras were rolling on the day that Bob Dylan jarred the folk community by plugging in a Stratocaster and fronted a brash rock band at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. It's a moment that altered Dylan's career and music forever and, aside from a few photographs, few fans had access to any document of that historic set. It's no coincidence then that "Festival!" has finally been released on DVD soon after Scorsese's much-hyped documentary. From 1963 to 1966, Lerner chronicled the annual Newport Folk Festival to create this remarkable Oscar-nominated film. Lerner's efforts earned the public extraordinary access to performances by legends like Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Howlin' Wolf, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Pete Seeger, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, among others. Baez is clearly billed as the star attraction here and with good reason; the compelling singer is at the peak of her powers and radiates real warmth on the black and white screen. No scene is as significant as Dylan's mythical first electric performance but young festival goers will be amazed by how much Newport's atmosphere (i.e., hippies jamming on hand drums, stars engaging in workshops, etc.) continues to resonate today. (Eagle Rock)