“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.
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If Laura Mulvey is the queen of feminist film theory, Chantal Akerman is its messiah figure: the one to make its theories compelling and cinematic and accessible and powerful and hot rather than cold and counter cinematic. The importance of Mulvey’s films is in their complete dismissal of a misogynist film form in an attempt to create a specifically female gaze, as in her unwatchable masterpiece Riddles of the Sphinx, but in the same year, Akerman took it a step further with Jeanne Dielman. In the film, made when she was just 25, Akerman co-opted the cinematic techniques of the Hollywood gaze and manipulated them to serve a female narrative, and ended up making one of the most important works in the European Cinema.
“Every time he went away on a trip, on a mission, he’d leave me a letter,” Nestor Cerpa Jr. explains, “Because there was always a risk something would happen to him.” The letter Cerpa reads at the beginning of The Siege is the last one his father wrote, before he led a group of guerrillas from the MRTA (the Tupac Army Revolutionary Movement) against President Alberto Fujimoro’s government in Peru. As Bentley Dean and Elise West’s documentary shows, in 1996, this mission didn’t go as Cerpa might have hoped. As survivors remember what happened during the 126 days that the group held the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Lima, the film cuts repeatedly to footage taken at the time. The press had remarkable access, as administration officials, police and military officers, released hostages, and the hostage takers made use of television cameras to make their cases. In so doing, the participants expanded the inadvertent blueprints for making spectacles out of such confrontations, established by hijackers during the 1960s, recalibrated during the 1972 Munich Olympics, and revisited by the events of 9/11. The documentary—airing now on ITVS’ Global Voices and available as well on Snag Films—smartly reveals the thrilling, horrific, and also absurd aspects of such performances, then and now.
Boston’s the Grownup Noise are one of those perfectly named bands whose moniker sums up their aesthetic to a tee. Given that the group came together at Berklee College of Music, it’s not surprising that their’s is a musicianship of the first order, nor that the five members exhibit a devotion to classic pop composition, simultaneously laden with hooks and rich in texture. Furthermore, each member is a multi-instrumentalist, thus contributing to the expansive sound. Now, that’s very grownup, indeed. The Grownup Noise released their debut back in 2007 and have toured with Rock Plaza Central, Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, and Amanda Palmer in the intervening years while honing a set of all-new material. That has culminated in their latest release, This Time With Feeling, which released this June. Today we proudly present the premiere of the band’s latest video directed by John Tomma of Extraneous Noise and filmed at Middle East in Boston on 26 March 2011. You can also sample a few MP3s after the jump.
“The block is quiet,” remembers Ameena Matthews, “And I’m looking down the street, and here come the sisters of the guy that got his tooth knocked out. They came to defend the brother’s honor with a butcher knife.” She means to make a difference in this all too common scenario. A Violence Interrupter, Matthews works with the group CeaseFire in Inglewood, CA, whose efforts are at the center of The Interrupters. Producer/director Steve James and author-turned-producer Alex Kotlowitz’s magnificent documentary reveals how the group is taking a different approach to gang violence, how it works to intervene in usual cycles. “People believe in punishment,” says epidemiologist and CeaseFire co-founder Gary Slutkin, because when “you punish a young person, he stops. But he actually learns to mimic the punishment.” If the task is daunting, CeaseFire members are courageous. In spite of missteps and steps back, in spite of the many times that the interrupters attend funerals and console grieving parents, they try again and again. If they can stop one act of violence, they might stop another.
See PopMatters’ review.