Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Movie Review:

Originally released in 1973, WATTSTAX is a musical and cultural artifact that pays tribute to the Watts riots, which ravaged Los Angeles for six days beginning August 11, 1965. The film's main focus is the Watts Summer Festival's 1972 concert held at the Los Angeles Coliseum, featuring performances by Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, The Staple Singers, The Bar-Kays, Luther Ingram, and a host of other soul singers.

Concert footage is intercut with interviews of African-Americans, who discuss the state of black America in the early 1970s, as well as the effects the riots had on Los Angeles and America at large.

Mel Stuart, most famous for helming 1971's WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, maintains an objective point-of-view, allowing the film's subjects to reveal insights as the concert unfolds throughout the course of a long day.

Highlights include the unforgettable performance of Rufus Thomas, and Richard Pryor, whose tireless energy keeps the film crew in hysterics throughout his interview.

WATTSTAX is a documentary that works on a variety of levels--entertaining, enlightening, engaging--in order to paint a portrait of the black race at a crucial time in American history.

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