Ok, so this movie is fucking brilliant. No bullshit. If you're a fan of soul music this will be a treasure for you. Period. Endless fantastic footage that was left on the cutting room floor from 'When We Were Kings' gives birth to this new documentary. Unlike 'Kings' which is also a fantastic film, it's not about the fight, but about the musicians and the music. It doesn't have a narrative or retrospective interviews. It's completely verité and an incredible insight without voice over tones guiding it.
It's about the Zaire 74 music festival that lasted 3 days. It's a incredible line up of soul super stars and their various musical wanderings before and after the show. Precious moments with Celia Cruz, Pacheco, BB King, and James Brown jamming on a airplane. Various artist from the festival having impromptu jam sessions with kids in the streets of Zaire. It seems like a constant party, yet there's incredible insight from the people in the film. Artists give us moments of vast reflection about the current social climate, racism and race relations in the states and moments of sheer tenderness toward the people around them. In one scene Ali kisses a little girl. He is so wild and free with his affection, he is so tender and cute with her, that as a fighter and man of such stature, to see it brought tears to my eyes.
Every clip of concert footage made me feel like standing up in my seat in the movie theatre and clapping. I cried several times during the movie because there was such amazing humanity and kindness, yet also performances that were touching, incredible and simply stunning. Bill Withers is painfully deep, Miriam Makeba is vibrant and funny, and the Spinners are completely bad ass. Big Black hits a conga solo that will rock your world and Celia Cruz (and what looks like the entire Fania family) completely seduce and destroy. This MIGHT not have been the best festival, but what is collectively represented in the movie makes it look so. James is just James at this point. Never a bad show from the Godfather but, this is 74 and oddly not what his performances were like in 73. Not quite the Vegas era yet, but getting there. Earthshaking performances all around and representing well in 74 for the world to see.
All of the music and interviews have huge relevance and the entire film seems to glow with purpose. Not to mention the cinematography was utterly mind blowing. The camera captures so much life. There's one scene where a band from Zaire looks to be playing in front of a department store. It looks as though it's captured from some ridiculously rare afro funk band LP cover. I simply can't say enough about the film. Rumor has it that there's 10 more hours of footage and the makings for several more movies sitting somewhere within that footage. I can only hope they will give us more. Let's hope the DVD comes with endless outtakes and extra footage. But, PLEASE go see it. Give these folks some money and support art like this. It's once in a lifetime kind of material. Those of us in the soul community need to support. word. GO SEE THIS.