A documentary on the legendary soul music concert staged in Kinshasa, Zaire in 1974.
At The Movies
Soul Power (G) * * * *
By ROBERT WALDMAN
Thank goodness for historical footage. Smart producers of a little heard music festival from 1974 bring back classic memories in Soul Power, a dynamic documentary from Sony Pictures Classics now livening things up at Tinseltown (on Pender, free parking). You wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to miss a beat of this insightful look into an event that few of us have ever heard of.
Back in 1974 some show biz types thought it would be interesting to gather a group of black performers and thrust them into the lime light in their homeland, Africa. Set to take the world by storm this event was to coincide with another champion offering: the return match between heavyweight contenders Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Even the main man himself, the former Cassius Clay, was enlisted to take part in the three day festival. Needless to say, Mr. Ali was not at a loss for words whenever in camera range.
Shot initially to be a movie right after the famed concert this footage has gathered dust for over 30 years. What a shame itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only now that this story is being told. Sit back and enjoy some of the great soul acts of all time as some of North AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hottest stars take the stage in Khinshasa, Zaire in 1974.
Other films on concerts and festivals have been done before. Seldom has such stark contrast in lifestyle been shown in a music documentary as the filmmakers alternate between the well off western stars and the poor as can be native population. Insightful also are the behind the scenes machinations which take up almost half the time of the 93 minute movie, maybe too much time. Being able to eavesdrop on the conversations between festival promoters, stage hands and financial backers is fun to behold, all in front of the military security in place in this dictator run nation.
Music is at the heart of this documentary and thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no denying the magnetism of the stars. Even rehearsals are fun to behold as new steps are gone over with local entertainers set to appear alongside the headliners. On stage to share the limelight are the likes of B.B. King, The Spinners and the main man himself, James Brown.
Full of candor and ad libs, by far the funniest moments in this film are watching Muhammad Ali make musings all over the map. Loud laughs will be heard whenever Ali offers a word of wisdom, something he never runs short of. Without doubt the former heavyweight is the star of the show.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fun to see all the hoopla surrounding the build-up of this event. One of the let-downs, however, is that not enough musical numbers are shown. Just one number by The Spinners is simply not enough to appreciate their artistry. More and better time spent on the performers singing instead of long stints on background would have further enhanced this one of a kind movie.
Fun from start to finish, Soul Power will be a blessing for fans of this musical genre.
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