SXSW Film Review: Mavis!

Singing joy down through the years

If there’s one sound running through the last 60 years of American musical and social history, it is the voice of Mavis Staples. As the vocal anchor of the Staples Singers and more recently a solo artist, Mavis! (exclamation required) brought blues to gospel, soul to civil rights, joy to millions.

Sunday morning’s Paramount audience was privileged to see Jessica Edwards’ remarkable, first-feature biopic-with-music with the legend herself, also seeing it for the first time. The film is “a family affair,” not only in its insightful biography of Roebuck “Pops” Staples and his talented children, but in heartfelt conversations with musicians and others who know Mavis best: Bonnie Raitt, Chuck D, Bob Dylan, Julian Bond, Sharon Jones, Levon Helm, Prince, and her latest devoted collaborator, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. Mavis took the stage afterward (“I’ve cried off all my mascara.”) to answer questions from a rapt audience, and then she and guitarist Rick Holmstrom closed with a riveting version of “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.” At 75, Staples is not slowing down: “I’ll stop singing when I have nothing left to say, and that’s not gonna happen.”


24 Beats Per Second, World Premiere
Monday, March 16, 7:30pm, Marchesa
Thursday, March 19, 11am, Vimeo

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SXSW Film, Mavis!, Mavis Staples, Jessica Edwards, Rick Holmstrom

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