Soul Power (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner08/07/2009

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 92 mins

Likeable documentary that serves as a fascinating companion piece to When We Were Kings and delivers some stirring concert footage and an intriguing snapshot of the racial and political situation in 1974 Zaire.

What's it all about?
Directed by Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Soul Power was filmed at the same time as the award-winning documentary When We Were Kings, which focused on the legendary Rumble in the Jungle Ali-Foreman fight. Trumpeter activist Hugh Masekela and producer Stewart Levine persuaded fight promoter Don King to help them stage a three-day concert with the biggest names in soul music and African and Latin pop.

The first third of the film details the setting up of the concert (with the venue provided by President Mobuto himself) and the various stars, including Muhammad Ali, arriving and settling in. The final two thirds are given over to the concert itself, featuring blistering performances from BB King, Bill Withers, the Spinners, the Crusaders, Miriam Makeba, Celia Cruz and the Fania All-Stars and finally a show-stopping turn from the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown.

The Good
The highlight of the film is undoubtedly the footage of Muhammad Ali, whose charm and charisma practically leaps off the screen. When he gives an impassioned speech about racial injustice in America, it's genuinely moving, as is his clearly overwhelmed reaction to setting foot in Zaire. On a similar note, there's some wonderful footage of the various artists making music with the Zaire street kids and the atmosphere is infectiously joyous throughout.

The concert footage is equally impressive, particularly the performances by James Brown, BB King and a splendidly coiffed Miriam Makeba (wife of activist Stokely Carmichael).

The Bad
The downside to the film is that, unless you're a huge fan, the music starts to get a bit samey after a while and it eventually feels like everyone's just jamming on stage and doing their own thing.

Worth seeing?
This is an enjoyable, well made and frequently fascinating documentary and fans of the performers involved can probably go ahead and add an extra star. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 16/07/2018 05:53

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