Soul power premiers at is released theatrically in the UK on the 10th July 209 Glastonbury festival 2:30am Friday (Saterday morning)
"In 1974, the most celebrated American R&B acts of the time came together with the most renowned musical groups in Southern Africa for a 12-hour, three-night long concert held in Kinshasa, Zaire. The pipe dream of musician Hugh Masekela and producer Stewart Levine, this music festival became a reality when they convinced boxing promoter Don King to combine the event with “The Rumble in the Jungle,” the epic fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, previously chronicled in the Academy Award winning documentary “When We Were Kings.”
Soul Power is a verité documentary, entirely composed of footage shot in 1974 at the legendary music festival (dubbed “Zaire ’74”). It shows the experiences and performances of such musical luminaries as James Brown, BB King, Bill Withers, Celia Cruz, Miriam Makeba, among a host of others. At the peak of their talents and the height of their careers, these artists were inspired by this return to their African roots, as well as the enthusiasm of the Zairian audience, to give the performances of their lives. The concert has achieved mythological significance as the definitive Africa(n)-American musical event of the 20th Century.
Soul Power has been crafted from the extensive footage which remained after the making of When We Were Kings, which famously documented the epic title fight, but only briefly touched upon the Zaire ’74 music festival. This footage has remained vaulted for the past 35 years, unused, unseen, until now. Lensed primarily by celebrated cinematographers Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens), Paul Goldsmith (Rust Never Sleeps), Kevin Keating (Harlan County USA), and Roderick Young (Wattstax), Soul Power finally provides today’s audience the opportunity to experience this historic musical event in all of its magnificent, filmed glory, restored in HD and with incredible sound quality. An unbridled musical journey for the ages."
You can also check out Jays Five: Documentary recommendations article he wrote for us a while back to, if you have not done so before.
Jay Cheel of The Documentary Blog gives us his top five documentary recommendations.
1. Salesman (1969) – Directors: David Maysles, Albert Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin
The Maysles Brothers are considered by many to be pioneers in the Cinema Verite movement, or as they prefer to say…their own ’Direct Cinema’ style. Saleman is a prime example of their knack at remaining almost completely un-intrusive while still capturing beautiful images and honest moments. The film follows a small group of Boston bible salesman as they try to meet their quotas by any means necessary. When the main subject, Paul ‘The Badger’ Brennan starts to lose his touch, he struggles to remain on top of his sales while sharing stories on the road with his salesmen buddies.
Also check out: John Landis’ Slasher. A documentary about a rambunctious used car salesmen.
2. Grizzly Man (2005) - Director: Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog’s ‘Grizzly Man’ compiles recorded video of Timothy Treadwell’s years spent in Alaska’s Katmai National Park ‘protecting’ the Grizzly Bears. After Treadwell and his girlfriend were brutally mauled by one of the bears he swore to protect, many claimed he ‘had it coming’. Werner Herzog interviews both the Treadwell supporters and non-supporters, providing not only a confessional film, with Treadwell revealing his inner-most demons to the camera, but a debate on whether or not Treadwell was helping or hurting the bears. For anyone who’s a fan of Herzog’s cold, unflinching German logic, you will love Grizzly Man.
Also check out: Little Dieter Needs to Fly
3. Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000) - Directors: Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky
I remember the first time I watched Paradise Lost 2. It was Christmas morning, and it was playing on the Documentary Channel. I was so caught up in what was going on in this film that I refused to get out of bed, and in the end, cancelled Christmas until further notice. Paradise Lost 2 re-examines the case of Damien Echols, who was sentenced to death for supposedly being the ringleader of a gang of two other teens (Jessie Miskelly and Jason Baldwin) accused of killing three young boys in a sadistic, ritualistic manner. After HBO released the first Paradise Lost, many people began to question the facts and lack of evidence in this case, suggesting that the three teens were wrongly convicted based on prejudice views on their goth lifestyle, love of heavy metal music (Metallica provides the soundtrack to the film) and interest in the wicca relgion. For fans of murder mysteries, courtroom dramas and who-dunnit’s, this movie will have you hooked. Mark Byers, the stepfather of one of the child victims, suddenly becomes one of the key suspects in this case as some unusually incriminating coincidences begin to pop up throughout the film. I will say that Byers is one of the creepiest film characters I’ve ever seen in a film, fiction or non-fiction.
Also Check out: Brothers Keeper
4. Vernon Florida (1981) - Director: Errol Morris
Before Errol Morris invented his world famous ‘interrotron’, he sat down face to face with a group of unusual southern senior citizens in my favourite in his amazing body of work, ‘Vernon, Florida’. Every shot in this film is like a photograph. Cinematographer Ned Burgess retains the colourful backgrounds and symmetrical framing found in ‘Gates of Heaven’, Morris’ first film. The interviewees stand directly in front of the camera and talk about anything and everything…from turkey hunting, the authenticity of a mail order jewel, catching fish out a dead donkey carcass… Some might accuse Morris’ of exploiting the ramblings of the old and uninformed, but among these seemingly pointless monologues, there are moments of pure poetry. This could be my favourite documentary of all time.
Also Check Out: Gates of Heaven
5. The Staircase (2004) - Director: Jean-Xavier De Lestrade
The Staircase is a six hour long documentary, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. For the sake of releasing the film to the public, it was split up into eight episodes during it’s original broadcast on the Sundance Channel. The film follows the murder trial of Michael Preston, a high-profile author accused of killing his wife Kathleen Peterson, who was found dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of the staircase in their North Carolina mansion. This movie is SO thrilling and so gripping that I managed to watch the entire six hours in one day. Director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade was given INSANE access to the extended Peterson family, filming their every move and capturing their thoughts as Michael Peterson’s kids deal with the trial of their Father and the death of their Mother. Throughout the trial, many revalations and unusual coincidences have the viewer and the jury shifting back and forth between guilty and not-guilty, right up until the climax of the film which will have you on the edge of your seat. I HIGHLY recommend this film.
Also Check Out: Murder on a Sunday Morning, Capturing the Friedmans
The Documentary Blog is a website created by and for documentary fans and filmmakers. Our goal is to become your quintessential source for news and reviews pertaining specifically to documentary films. Our regular ‘features’ will focus on filmmakers, style, and hopefully provide insight into the process of documentary filmmaking.
Read more from Jay at www.thedocumentaryblog.com
Legendary UK TV film critic Barry Norman looks at the making of two early 90's Low budget UK horror movies. Jim Grooms 1992 cult horror-comedy Revenge of Billy the Kid and Cult director Richard Stanley's horror / sci-fi Hardware.
This segment is taken from the BBC's long running film show Film '90 (now obviously Film 2008). Barry Norman presented the show for 25 years starting in 1972 up until he left and in 1999 and was replaced by current host Jonathan Ross.
Though Hardware was slated as a Terminator rip off by some at the time it made a profit and Richard Stanley went on to make another film with a cult following the Namibian serial killer movie Dust Devil in 1993. DVD label put out a remasterd directors cut of Dust Devil in 2006 which you can still pick up from Amazon. However his career stalled when he was thrown off the set of the 1996 production of The Island of Dr. Moreau and replaced in the director’s chair by John Frankenheimer. 2006 saw him contribute to the screenplay for Nacho Cerdà's hit indie horror The Abandoned and next year should see the release of his return as a genre director, the post apocalyptic movie Vacation.
The team behind Revenge of Billy the Kid fared worse if anything, which personally I think is a shame as it was not a bad little flick if you like low budget horror comedy. Jim Groom was to direct only one other movie Room 36 which was beset with so many problems it took over a decade to reach its first Screen release and as far as I know has never had any distribution outside festivals and screeners. Tim Dennison one of the films writers has gone on to be a producer involved in various films including Simon Hunters The Mutant Chronicles.
In the "visual essay" Feast Of Titans (edited version for Internet) Alejandro Jodorowsky's contemporary Fernando Arrabal (I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse) speaks about mythology, politics and art, searching for the ways of the modern man through the theater and scientific development.
We Heart Stuff, posted a feature on this short film directed by Nicolas Randall and Joe Stevens which played at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The film which may be set to become a feature length documentary looks at a group of Trinidadian kids in New York, who are combining the sound-system / bass culture of their homeland with bicycles.
Last summer in a cramped, rented garage on the outskirts of Queens, NY something incredible was happening. Nicholas Ragbir, an imaginative tinkerer from Trinidad was working late into the nights creating something nobody had ever seen: enormously powerful stereo PA systems jerry rigged onto ordinary bmx bikes. It wasn’t long before Nick assembled a small crew of like-minded riders. Traveling together, each behind the handlebars of his or her own massive homemade creation, they treat the neighborhood to an outrageous impromptu music and dance party on wheels.
Once upon a time over 14% (The 1920's) of US farmers where black, now its well under 1%. Documentary maker David Snider follows photographer John Ficara as he takes images for his "American Black Farmer Project.
"They only lend you enough money to get in touble, they know it, they loan you the money to fail, you know" ... Willie Adams (farmer)
I have just finished watching Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ for the second time and it was equally as mesmerising on this occasion. Contrary to many speculations, An Inconvenient Truth is a film dedicated to transmitting facts, not theory, to the real threat that global warming has to not only our economy but to humanity and all life on earth as we know it. Apart from the subject matter being so monumentality important to our generation, the documentary itself is extraordinarily put together. Many critics, of the concept not the film, have openly stated that it’s contents is ‘mumbo jumbo’ or a left wing attempt to fool America and risk American jobs, saying that the science is only theory and not concrete evidence. One can’t help but feel these are the same people that have a vested financial interest in keeping our ‘old’ technologies alive, such as the use of fossil fuel, but ironically would probably have no issue accepting science as fact if it were for a medical procedure to save their own pitiful lives. The fact that they only say ‘to fool America and risk American jobs’ only serves to emphasise their shear ignorance and lack of understanding of the predicament. This is larger than America and certainly more profound than American jobs and is quite frankly an insult that they only mention their own country in their blinded patriotism.
When agreeing to this review I promised Leigh that I wouldn’t get too submerged in the content and would try to concentrate on the film itself and how it has been documented. I am finding this extremely hard as the core of this film is so overwhelmingly important. I wouldn’t consider myself to be ‘a hippy’ or a ‘tree hugger’ by a long shot, I don’t even recycle for heavens sake, but I do consider myself to be a person of rational thought. The scientific evidence presented by Al Gore in this film is undeniably staggering and has completely changed my perception of the issue.
What makes the film so poignant is the vast array of sources the evidence comes from to form a collective conclusion. Of course there are satellite images of decreasing ice caps and off the wall charts showing the rapid increase in CO2 emissions and how levels of the gas over the last 650,000 years convincingly correspond to the temperature of the globe. These are to be expected. What isn’t expected are the previously unreleased charts of nuclear submarines, showing the dramatic increase in areas of ice thin enough for the underwater vessels to surface through or the insurance company’s acceptations that natural disasters and global warming are pushing their premiums up.
Many have said that the film is a political message, an attempt to defame the right by the left, but as Al Gore states himself, this is a moral issue not a political one. This message becomes increasingly apparent as we are taken through the history of Gore’s involvement of the subject. Gore was first introduced to the effects of global warming in his college years and it has been his entire motivation for entering the world of politics – hardly a whimsical attempt to have a dig at the Bush administration in light of Gore’s questionable defeat.
Gore is a charismatic speaker and clearly passionate about the topic, having delivered over 1000 presentations across the world. With that experience he is a master of getting the message across and communicates it a multitude of ways that anyone can understand. Cartoon scenarios are supported by startling photographic and linear chart evidence. Stories relating past historical mistakes, such as the denial of the health risk from smoking, have their similarities compared to highlight humanities tendency to bury its head in the sand until the consequences are upon us.
Gore has also worked his way through every possible obstacle that challenges his argument. Perhaps the most interesting are his answers to the economic risk of action. Gore shows how nations such as China and the EU have CO2 regulations set in place that mean American car companies are unable to sell their gas guzzling vehicles abroad and are therefore suffering financially. He shows how the companies that are taking positive environmental action are reporting massive increases in profit.
At the start of the film the viewer is left despairing at the epic proportions of the damage already done and the struggle for survival humanity could face. By the end of the film Gore pulls us back from that mirage to accentuate that hope is not lost if we can find the strength to act now. One of the many quotes Gore uses to pummel the point home is “You can't make somebody understand something if their salary depends upon them not understanding it” (Upton Sinclair). Unfortunately this is so very true and makes the title of the documentary so very apt.
I could rant away for hours on this subject but for the sake of your sanity will refrain from doing so. I will simply say this is a profound film and a far cry for the political instigations it has been accused of. I would highly recommend you see it if you are the owner of a conscience if not for yourself then for your children and grandchildren who will no doubt suffer profusely from our unfortunate ignorance. Commendations to Gore for having the guts to put himself on the line for this crucial message.