Movie Review: Soundtrack for a Revolution (2009) #atozchallenge


This is my entry for “S” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “S” documentaries I’ve reviewed are Searching for Augusta: The Forgotten Angel of Bastogne Secrets of Underground London, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, and Stop Making Sense

Title: Soundtrack for a Revolution
Release Date: April 24, 2009
Director: Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman
Production Company: Freedom Song Productions
Summary/Review:

This documentary traces the Civil Rights Movement from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the March from Selma to Montgomery through the songs that sustained activists during marches, sit-ins, and jail sentences. These songs include “We Shall Not Be Moved,” “Woke Up This Morning,” “Eyes on the Prize,” “Oh Freedom,” and “We Shall Overcome.”  Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement including John Lewis, Andrew Young, Harry Belafonte, Lynda Lowery, and Lula Joe Williams share stories of the Civil Rights Movement and the specific instances of singing the songs.  The movie also includes performances by contemporary artists such as Wyclef Jean, Richie Havens, The Roots, Joss Stone, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and John Legend recording their interpretations of these freedom songs.  I have to say that the polished performances of these artists lack the passion and joy of the amateurs singing them in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

The power of song is strong and fueled revolutionary changes to our nation, and can do so again.

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

If you have any interest in learning more about the Civil Rights Movement, I highly reccomend the documentary series Eyes on the Prize.  The docudrama Selma is also a good movie and it captures the importance of music to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the many others who marched from Selma to Montgomery.  The radio show/podcast Sound Opionions also did an excellent episode about the music of the Civil Rights era.

Source: Hoopla

Rating: ***


2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II

A: Amy
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five
D: Dear Mr. Watterson
E: The Endless Summer
F: F for Fake
G: Grey Gardens
H: High School
I: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice
J: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
K: Kon-Tiki
L: The Last Waltz
M: Man With a Movie Camera
N: Nanook of the North
O: Obit.
P: Pelotero
Q: Quest: A Portrait of an American Family
R: Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

Movie Review: What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015) #atozchallenge


This is my entry for “W” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “W” documentaries I’ve reviewed are WattstaxWild AfricaThe Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, and Word Wars.

TitleWhat Happened, Miss Simone?
Release Date: January 22, 2015
Director: Liz Garbus
Production Company: Moxie Firecracker Films
Summary/Review:

This documentary tells the life story of Nina Simone, a talented singer, instrumentalist, and songwriter across several genres and a Civil Rights activist.  I first became aware of Simone in the early 2000s when I woke up to a local college radio station playing hear searing Civil Rights anthem “Mississippi Goddam” and have grown to appreciate her performance on several other songs she recorded.  Although Simone died in 2003, this film features found audio recordings of extended interviews with her that allow Simone to narrate the movie.  There is also archival footage of several of Simone’s concert performances which the director wisely allows to play out for entire songs.

Simone was born Eunice Waymon and was classically trained with hopes of becoming a concert pianist.  She took her stage name when she took jobs playing “the devil’s music” at clubs in Atlantic City.  She was also urged to sing along with her cocktail piano performances – or lose her job – which lead to her becoming a jazz and blues vocalist. Simone had a talent for modulating her voice to fit different songs which she states in the movie: “Sometimes I sound like gravel, sometimes I sound like coffee and cream.”

She married Andrew Stroud who also acted as her manager and furthered her career as a popular music artists.  Simone was exhausted by the constant touring and performances, but her concerns were ignored by Stroud.  Worse, Stroud severely abused Simone, both physically and psychologically.  While Simone often had a strong and confident demeanor in public, images of her diaries show her struggles with depression and suicidal ideation.  Her performances could be erratic too, and one stunning scene shows her stopping a song to yell at an audience member to “sit down!”

Unsettlingly, Stroud is one of the people interviewed in the film, and appears to be more interested in defending himself than telling Simone’s story.  The other key figure is their daughter Lisa Simone Kelly, who offers insight on her mother’s personal life as well as stories of growing up among celebrities like Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Sidney Poitier, and Betty Shabazz and her family.  Some musicians Simone collaborated with also share details about Simone as an artist and their personal relationships.

This is a terrific documentary about a musician who I think should be more well-known.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

I was completely unaware of Simone’s troubled personal life and mental health problems.

Also, there’s a scene where she performs a song called “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and I thought it was an interesting interpretation of a song by The Animals, but no!  Nina Simone wrote this song and The Animals covered it!

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

Source: I watched this movie on Netflix streaming.
Rating: ****

Podcast of the Week: “Music of the Civil Rights Movement” by Sound Opinions


Show 534 of WBEZ Chicago’s music show Sound Opinions combines some of my favorite things: music, history, and social justice!  Hosts Jim and Greg discuss the importance of music to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s and play uninterrupted tracks of brilliant songs such as “Mississippi Goddamn” and “A Change is Gonna Come.”

This is a brilliant episode of a consistently good radio program.

Listen here: http://www.soundopinions.org/show/534