Soul Power

Soul Power

5.0 1
Director: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte

Cast: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Muhammad Ali, James Brown, B.B. King

     
 

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Presented in conjunction with the landmark "Rumble in the Jungle" boxing match between famed pugilists Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, Zaire '74 was a three-day music festival in Kinshasa that was organized by South African musician Hugh Masekela and American record producer Stewart Levine, and featured

Overview

Presented in conjunction with the landmark "Rumble in the Jungle" boxing match between famed pugilists Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, Zaire '74 was a three-day music festival in Kinshasa that was organized by South African musician Hugh Masekela and American record producer Stewart Levine, and featured performances by such famed musicians as James Brown, Bill Withers, and B.B. King, among others. Many of the American musicians performing at Zaire '74 had been emboldened by the American Civil Rights movement, and saw their journey to Africa as a unique opportunity not just to perform for a new set of enthusiastic fans, but to explore their roots as well. However, while the forward-thinking promoters of Zaire '74 hired a talented team of documentary filmmakers to capture everything from the setup to the performances to everyday life in Kinshasa, the project ran into trouble when the Liberian investment group that financed the festival and film ran into some rather serious legal disputes. For the next three decades, the remarkable footage would sit untouched and unedited -- a valuable sociohistorical artifact seemingly forgotten, and left to succumb to the ravages of time. Later, in 1996, the rights were settled in order to help facilitate the completion of When We Were Kings, an Academy Award-winning documentary focusing on the very same Ali/Foreman match that took place alongside the Zaire '74 music festival. Recognizing the need to assemble the neglected Zaire '74 footage while it was still possible, When We Were Kings editor Jeffrey Levy-Hinte made it his own personal mission to see the long gestating project through to completion. The result is not simply a concert film featuring some of the most popular African and American musicians of the era, but also a pure cinéma vérité glimpse into a time when the musical crossover between the two nations was just beginning to emerge.

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It's hard to believe it's taken 35 years for images this vibrant, this joyous, and this era-defining to reach the big screen. Yet that's the gestation period for Soul Power, the concert film that finally brings to life the three-day music festival known as Zaire '74, which was intended to accompany the "Rumble in the Jungle" boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman (before a busted lip prompted Foreman to postpone by six weeks). The reason for the film's delay is clear, however -- its very existence was a direct response to how much footage wasn't considered germane to When We Were Kings, Leon Gast's 1996 documentary about the fight, which itself was delayed by legal disputes involving the project's original Liberian financiers. Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, an editor on that Oscar-winning film, was inspired to rescue the hours of unused concert footage from the vaults, and the end result is Soul Power. Fans of both movies and music should be thankful he did. Like so many concert films that have come before, Soul Power takes the viewer all the way from erecting the stage through the final bows. But what's so different from those films is the veritable melting pot of musical creativity on display here. The festival was conceived as blending the best African-American musicians and the best African musicians, but those loose guidelines had no problem embracing such performers as Cuba's Celia Cruz and her salsa supergroup, the Fania All-Stars. The viewer gets an idea what's in store from a jubilant airborne jam session, which for all we can tell lasted from start to finish of the 13-hour flight from Paris to Kinshasa -- and which seems like one condensed encapsulation of the spirit of the 1960s. The musicians who disembark on the other side are a who's who of 1970s R&B: James Brown, B.B. King, Bill Withers, the Spinners. Seeing these acts in their prime is one thing; watching them interact with other personalities -- such as Ali and fight promoter Don King, who deliver some rich sound bites on race and contemporary life -- is another. Levy-Hinte was wise not to construct Soul Power as just a string of musical performances. The camaraderie of the performers, the promoters' logistical headaches, the anticipatory glee of the locals, and other on-the-ground details turn out to be indispensable ingredients. On the whole, it's a glorious teleportation into a time long past, and Levy-Hinte keeps it that way by resisting the temptation to contextualize the festival via 21st century interviews with participants. Modern reflections would have broken the spell of the footage that Kings director Gast and crew shot at the time. When the curtain does drop on opening night, Levy-Hinte actually leaves his viewers wanting more. Each musical luminary is given one song -- in some cases, only part of one song -- to strut his, her, or their stuff, in keeping with the director's balanced approach. But the selections are dynamite. Viewers will cherish every facial contortion in B.B. King's guitar solo, every note held for impossible lengths by a crooning Bill Withers, every drop of sweat off the brow of James Brown at his most gymnastic. For every familiar act, though, there's a genius African counterpart who may be brand-new to Soul Power's audience. Most memorable among these is Miriam Makeba, whose "Click Song" demonstrates her fitness with that inimitable consonant sound common in tribal languages. Language could have been a significant barrier during Zaire '74, as the most famous performers spoke and sung in English, while the audience was largely French-speaking. Well, the international language of music triumphed back then -- so should it now in making Soul Power an international hit.

Product Details

Release Date:
01/26/2010
UPC:
0043396323841
Original Release:
2008
Rating:
PG-13
Source:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
ABC
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Sound:
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Time:
1:33:00
Sales rank:
57,474

Special Features

Deleted scenes; Commentary with director Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and music/festival producer Stewart Levine

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Muhammad Ali Participant
James Brown Participant
B.B. King Participant
Miriam Makeba Participant
Celia Cruz Participant
Bill Withers Participant
Spinners Participant
Don King Participant
Stewart Levine Participant
Crusaders Participant
Big Black Participant
J.B.'s Participant
Fania All-Stars Participant
Lloyd Price Participant
Franco Participant
Tabu Ley Participant

Technical Credits
Jeffrey Levy-Hinte Director,Producer
Tom Efinger Sound/Sound Designer
Leon Gast Producer
Paul H. Goldsmith Cinematographer
Kevin Keating Cinematographer
Stewart Levine Producer
Hugh Masekela Producer
Albert Maysles Cinematographer
David Smith Editor
David Sonenberg Producer
Roderick Young Cinematographer

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Soul Power 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago