From the Film Vaults
Jeffrey Levy- Hinte’s documentary of the concerts surrounding the Muhammed Ali- George Foreman heavyweight title match in Zaire circa 1974 comes vibrantly to life on Soul Power. The concerts were organized by musician Hugh Masekela and Stewart Levine, coordinated by Alan Pariser, and promoted by Levine and Lloyd Price. The lineup included Celia Cruz, Big Black, Miriam Makeba, The Crusaders, The Spinners, Bill Withers, B.B. King, and James Brown. Brown’s “Soul Power” chant lures the viewer into the proceedings as Paul Goldsmith, Kevin Keating, Albert Maysles, and Roderick Young’s stunning cinematography offers up a colorful view of the African landscape.
David Smith’s sharp editing style adds heat and tension between the interviews with Ali, the preparations of the organizers, and the performer’s arrival at the Zaire concert site. Celebrities flock to the Ali- Foreman fight, and George Plimpton and Stokely Carmichael become the most visible on camera. The heart of the film resides inside the dramatic stage appearances of The Spinners as they dig deep on their chart topper, “One of a Kind (Love Affair),” and the steamy folk blues from Bill Withers on “Hope She’ll Be Happier.” Miriam Makeba’s “The Click Song” offers up an enchanting diversion, and The Crusaders’ “Put It Where You Want It” amuses the African patrons as they clap along vigorously.
Bill McManus’ concert lighting shines brightly on B.B. King while he offers up a slow, scintillating blues stretch on “Thrill is Gone.” The Godfather of Soul, James Brown takes over the latter half of the concert, pumping adrenaline and emotion into the classics, “Payback” and “Cold Sweat.” The film’s final credits roll as Brown’s band and entourage hit a peak with the anthem, “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud).” Produced by David Sonenberg and Leon Gast, and directed with acute attention to detail by Jeffrey Levy- Hinte, Soul Power is a grooving and entertaining time warp back to 1974, when rhythm and blues music was a force to be reckoned with.