Monday, August 06, 2007

Wattstax












Man, I have been seeing some really good DVD's lately! This one, called "Wattstax", I first came across late one night watching PBS, where I had come across the film in progress. It was a concert film from 1972, interspersed with Richard Pryor and his hilarious commentary on life experiences, as well as regular people of the Watts community of Los Angeles talking about life in the community after the rebellion of 1965. As I had come across it in progress, I began to watch it and was just stunned by the performances of artists such as the Staple Singers, Luther Ingraham, Issac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, The Emotions, Rance Allen, a film opener by the Dramatics (Watch See, Is Watcha Get) and many, many more, as well as the discussions by the people of Watts about all aspects of their life. I must have seen it in part more than a year ago, and I think that yet another PBS show on the history of Stax records made me remember this film again, so I ordered it from Half.com. It only became available in DVD format in 2005 I believe, so people who had seen it previously had either caught it on TV like I did, or some were actually there at the event. "Wattstax" is sometimes called the "Black Woodstock", and there is some parallels there certainly. The DVD commentary indicates that many at Wattstax knew that what happened that day was something very magical (which is captured in the film), while Woodstock has been noted by the artists themselves for less than stellar performances, bad weather, equipment problems, and so on. And, as in my previous film posting, the cinematography and editing provided for in this film is just marvelous; they must have had so much film, to have come up with the amazing number of fantastic scenes that were left in the film.

The best thing I think about this film is the people. Dresssed in the early '70's fashions, watching the performances, dancing and feeling the vibe of the day. The everyday Black people in this film are portrayed as a confident, positive, beautiful people and community, and that comes through so very strongly in this film. If you go to IMDB.com and read the commentaries, you'll read much the same; with African-American commentators remembering the film and the times, and expressing how proudly the people are portrayed, as themselves, and remembering the feeling of the times. I myself, while not African-American or Black, remember a little bit of these times, attending primarily African-American elementary and junior high schools, and so I remember the times ands the styles quite fondly, the playing of Soul and R&B records brought in by kids (yes, they were records!) in the school cafeteria at lunch time, and my own white suit and platform shoes for jr. high graduation! Colonialism had recently ended in Africa, and the Black Power movement in America identified strongly with these emergent African nations, as was reflected in ideology, style, and an American music scene with African roots which swept the world and united Black communities around the globe. If you have any connections to any of these experiences or just love Soul music, then this film is definitely a must see, but I really think that everyone should see this film, and I hope that the recent DVD release will provide for a much wider exposure of this classic to the entire world.

2 Comments:

Blogger willowtree said...

This came on PBS the other night, I should be ashamed to say it, but I'd never heard of Wattstax or stax music- watching the program Ive realized that Ive heard a lot of the music, but never really knew much about it. Catching it from the middle or so, it seems to me that it was almost a movement. Not just music. I cannot understand how it passed me, like a bus.
I can chalk it up to the fact that my parents didnt really listen to popular music as I was growing up, and although we lived in America, I did not live in an American household hehe. It was terribly interesting to see and hear the differences in the music, and why this music was made differently. Maybe Ill get to see the documentary in its entirety one day.
Hey, how bout that Karl Rove?

9:48 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

I hope you get to see the whole film someday, Willowtree. Now that its on DVD, it's a little easier to get a hold of. I think the film really did capture a whole movement, of which the music was but just one part. I'd call it Black Consciouness or the Black Pride movement of the 60's/early '70's, coming out of the civil rights era of the '60's. I was a little kid at the time, but I remember a bit of the era. Wonderful times.

Karl Rove - Hmmmmmm....I am wondering what is going on here. I am suspicious...is something coming out on him, forcing an early resignation? We can only hope!

7:39 AM  

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