Applause all around for the sheer hipsterism of Nokia’s marketing department, where the boardroom might look more like Vice Magazine than Samsung. Nokia has been using indie rock to hype it’s N8 smartphone with a series of Live Sessions filmed entirely with the phone. The lineup so far includes Cults, Transfer, Portugal the Man, he Vaccines, Mona and Ben Howard.
When Natalie Maines told a London audience in March 2003, “We’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas,” she could not have imagined the fallout. But as she and fellow Dixie Chicks Martie Maguir and Emily Robison discover, her outspokenness had political and economic costs back in the States. That story is traced in Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing, screening on 9 August, as the Closing Night Film for Stranger Than Fiction‘s Summer Season, and followed by a Q&A with Barbara Kopple. Directed by Kopple and Cecelia Peck, the film shows crowds smashing CDs with a tractor and campaigns mounted online and at concerts, as former fans made plain their outrage. The Chicks respond by figuring out who they are, not in relation to a fixed fan base or the “brand” they had come to be, but to themselves and other audiences. Maines observes that the controversy “is a part of who we are as a band now.” And so they make a decision to reframe the controversy as a matter of free speech. With help from producer Rick Rubin, they make a new album and then set to marketing it. The film makes a special point of showing the Chicks on the road and at home (dressing their kids for Halloween, at the hospital where Robison has twins), underscoring how these experiences are intertwined. As much as the film shows their healthy integration of professional and personal politics, it also makes clear the significance of the Chicks in broader contexts, including free speech, the growing anti-war movement, and their experience as women in the music industry.
New York has had it good concerning Shakespearean theater recently, given that The Merchant of Venice, which starred Al Pacino as Shylock, was successfully produced. This summer, New York is presently hosting a six-week residency from England’s prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company, which the New York Times has called one of “the most famous classical theater companies in the world.” The R.S.C. will produce five plays in 45 performances, until 14 August. The plays are as follows: As You Like It,Julius Caesar,King Lear,Romeo and Juliet, and The Winter’s Tale. Don’t miss any one of them!
“We just gotta go straight ahead, there’s still gonna be a festival, man,” Stewart Levine tells a worried phone caller. No matter the confusions, the misunderstandings, the missed connections. The 1974 concert in Kinshasa, Zaire will go on. You know this much already, especially if you’ve seen When We Were Kings, Leon Gast’s magnificent documentary on the Rumble in the Jungle, wherein Muhammad Ali rope-a-doped George Foreman. Where the 1996 documentary focused on the fight—and on Ali’s brilliant performance in and out of the ring—this one follows how the music came together. Using so-called outtakes from the first film, it screens 2 August at Stranger Than Fiction, and followed by a Q&A with director Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte, the film shows how the arrangements were made, how the stage was built, and how artists rehearsed. (It also includes a bit of Ali, following footage from Gast’s film: “The only reason the camera’s on me, the only reason I’m in the shape I’m in,” he tells an interviewer, is because I’m the greatest fighter in the world.”) While interviews suggest that participants just beginning to imagine an African diaspora aren’t quite aware of the daily and long-term effects of Zaire’s president Mobutu Sese Seko, the faith in culture and art to form community is palpable. The concert footage features incredible performances from B.B. King, Bill Withers, Miriam Makeba, and Celia Cruz. But the film follows the structure of the show, climaxing with James Brown (“I’m just glad to be here,” he says early on, pretending to be humble). In his Godfather of Soul jumpsuit, he’s filmed from multiple angles, dancers backing him, band perfect, and every nerve on fire. “The best of James Brown is yet to come,” he announces near the end. And you know it’s true.
The Answer—Allen Iverson—has always provoked questions. Steve James’ documentary, No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson, revisits some of these, beginning with a look back at the trial held in Hampton, Virginia, where the “high school phenom” then lived. The filmmaker also grew up in Hampton, and his father B.J., an avid local sports fan, drew his attention to Iverson, whose trial commenced while James was living in Chicago. In the film the trial is at once specific, concerning Iverson’s involvement in a fight at a local bowling alley on Valentine’s Day, 1993. Charged with “maiming by mob,” Iverson and some classmates became vehicles for a harrowing exposure of the town’s racial divisions. In the film, James sorts through legal and political intersections, talking with community members, lawyers, protestors, and sports writers, as well as his own mother. James himself becomes an interview subject, when his black camera operator Keith Walker asks about his relationship to Hampton’s racist history. The film is at once attentive to that history and relentlessly metaphorical, reminding everybody of what they know and what they’d like to forget.