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Soul Power

Soul Power

Rated PG-13, 93 min. Directed by Jeffrey Levy-Hinte.

REVIEWED By Thomas Fawcett, Fri., Aug. 21, 2009

The "Rumble in the Jungle" was the main event, but this concert in the Congo was a hell of an undercard. The three-day festival in Zaire paired James Brown, B.B. King, and Bill Withers with top African talent before the epic 1974 Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman title bout. Soul Power serves as a companion piece to 1996 documentary When We Were Kings, mining the same 16mm archival footage that sat in rusty cans in a Jersey warehouse for three decades. The film uncorks such magical moments as Celia Cruz belting out "Cuando Llegaré" accompanied by King's strumming on the 13-hour flight and Ray Barretto inciting a jamming drum circle at an open-air Kinshasa market. The concert commences with Withers' devastating ballad "Hope She'll Be Happier," but Brown – who, like Ali, transcended entertainment – is the star of the show. Artfully stitched together sans narration, Soul Power stands alongside Wattstax as a critical concert film of the Black Power era. (This review originally ran in the March 19 daily issue printed during the South by Southwest Film Festival ’09.)
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