Wednesday, 18 March 2009

soul power

"A rare document of a very particular moment in history, when the Black Power movement, although well past its prime in the late 1960's, had captured the imagination of musicians and writers, athletes and capitalists alike" - Hollywood Reporter

Screening over 30 sessions as part of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image 's (ACMI) Long Play program, get front row tickets this May to Soul Power, the verite documentary on Zaire '74: the legendary concert event that achieved mythological significance as the definitive Africa(n) - American musical event of the 20th Century. 

4 years after the historic event that brought African American icons Muhammad Ali, George Forman, James Brown, BB King and Celia Cruz to Zaire to play alongside African greats including Miriam Makeba, the team who brought you the Academy-Award winning documentary When We Were Kings (1995) now brings you the musical feast on celluloid from that same event.

Soul Power is Jeffrey Levy-Hinte's directorial debut. Prior to this he produced a string of successful fiction and documentary features including Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (2008), Bomb It! (2007), Mysterious Skin (2004), Laurel Canyon (2002) and High Art (1998). It was during the production of Leon Gast's When We Were Kings, of which he was part of the Editing Team, that he was inspired to make Soul Power.

"In 1995, I was brought on to do editorial work for When We Were Kings, a documentary chronicling the renowned fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman (Rumble in the Jungle) held in Kinshasa, Zaire in the Fall of 1974. As that film neared completion, I became fixated on the notion that there was a tremendous wealth of material that was being sent back to the vault. This went beyond the typical situation where beloved scenes are left on the proverbial cutting room floor; rather, there was an entire aspect of the footage that was only superficially explored."

Using only original 16mm footage from 1974, Soul Power has been carefully crafted from the extensive outtakes of When We Were Kings which have been vaulted for 34 years. Filmed primarily by celebrated cinematographers Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens and When We Were Kings), Paul Goldsmith, Kevin Keating and Roderick Young (Wattstax), Soul Power pays homage to documentary filmmaking as an artistic discipline. ACMI Head of Film Programs Richard Sowada notes that Soul Power's verite style is integral to the film's infectious energy. "In a documentary environment that is dominated by very highly constructed and broadcast type films, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a true fly-on-the wall account packed with energy and chaos. It's such a beautiful snapshot of that time, like getting a postcard from the past, similar to films like Gimme Shelter (1970) and Wattstax (1973), it almost transcends the event itself, giving the audience a real sense of place, time and emotion."

"We now know Zaire as The Democratic Republic of Congo and we now know that the then President Mobutu Sese Seko was a totalitarian dictator; prisoners were killed underneath the very stadium where people were dancing to the music playing above. The subjects in this film wouldn't have known it at the time and by not having any narration or retrospective interviews, you somehow get a sense of that lack of awareness of the atrocities that were going on, and in a way, this is a truer representation of the time."

This respect for the subject matter and story that Levy-Hinte is telling through its characters is highlighted in the film's final scene post credits, when James Brown in his dressing room tells the camera: "I hope this can be put on the tail end of this. When you walk out this movie, when you walk away from your television set, if there's one thing you walk out with in your mind; When you get up and walk out and look down the street, you say to yourself - Damn right I'm somebody!", James Brown in Soul Power.

From its world premiere in Toronto to its Australian Premiere in Adelaide, Soul Power is having its long awaited Melbourne screenings at ACMI this May. Chosen for its broad appeal, it will screen as part of ACMI's Long Play program for an extended 3 week season.

"One of the great things about the film is its effortless universal appeal. If you love music - you'll love it. If you're into politics and social justice issues - you'll love it. If you are a Muhammad Ali and/or James Brown fan - well, you've got them both. If you love documentary - it's got it. If you just want to be entertained and uplifted - consider it done. As a film, that'd be about the best you could hope for. Plus, this film has a lot of something it's generally hard to find anywhere, let alone film -it's got a hell of a lot of soul," said Richard.

Get your front row tickets to the film concert event of a lifetime and get ready for the soul brother number 1 in Soul Power in a 3 week season at ACMI from 7-24 May, 2009.

ACMI will also be screening an imported print of When We Were Kings on Sun 10 May 5.45pm and Sun 17 May 5.45pm.

"Another legendary 1970s-era concert sees the light of day through the miracle of technology in the joyously funky docu Soul Power" - Variety Magazine

 "The film should get sufficient theatrical play before commencing a long shelf life as a cult item" - Screen International

"Colourful, fast-moving crowd-pleaser" - Hollywood Reporter

Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, 93 mins, USA, 2008, 35mm, English and French with English subtitles. Courtesy: Madman

For more information and session times check

Further information

Lior Opat
Communications Coordinator
Australian Centre for the Moving Image

[direct phone] 61 3 8663 2475 [fax] 61 3 8663 2498 [mobile] 0434 603 655
[postal address] PO Box 14, Flinders Lane VIC 8009, Australia

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