Featuring Andrew Young, Harry Belafonte, and Angie Stone. Rated PG. Plays Friday to Monday, June 11 to 14, at the Pacific Cinémathí¨que
More effective as a reintroduction to a lost time than as a definitive history, Soundtrack for a Revolution does a breezy and deeply harmonious job of conveying the central role music played in keeping the civil-rights movement together and moving forward in the stormy 1950s and ’60s.
Watch the trailer for Soundtrack for a Revolution.
Andrew Young, Julian Bond, and John Lewis—former aides to Martin Luther King Jr. and major figures in American politics—are chief among many recounting the arduous battle to allow African-Americans the vote and freedom of movement in the oppressive climate of institutionalized segregation. (This was the system studied and made even more brutal by white South Africa, as seen in the even more compelling Have You Heard From Johannesburg, also playing here this week.)
The voices of Harry Belafonte and others who were in this youth-driven movement are also heard. Their anecdotes are illustrated with apt, sometimes shocking footage of batons, fire hoses, police dogs, and worse loosed upon men, women, and children engaged in scrupulously practised nonviolent protest. Writer-directors Dan Sturman and Bill Guttentag (the latter with a couple of short-doc Oscars to his credit) find consistently novel ways of presenting this very familiar material.
The flow is not necessarily helped, however, by glossily shot studio footage of contemporary artists performing key songs of the struggle. Most effective are the Roots’ intense treatment of “Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Round”, Anthony Hamilton’s take on “This Will Be the Last Time”, and folkster Richie Havens getting his big hands around “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”. I don’t want to discriminate, but the project could have easily survived without Joss Stone’s overemoting.