Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Soundtrack For A Revolution 
"They could take everything else but our songs" is a line spoken early in Soundtrack For A Revolution, and this entire 82-minute documentary on the U.S. civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s is based on that theme.

The movie by filmmakers Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, which was executive produced by actor Danny Glover, tells the story of the black rights movement through old newsreel footage and recent interviews with people who helped lead it — but also through the songs they sung as they engaged in such non-violent protests as marches, lunch counter sit-ins and freedom rides on buses. Sadly, these people (including some enlightened white supporters) were often attacked, beaten, hosed, jailed and sometimes even murdered at the hands of racist bigots.

A number of songs from the era — which evolved from gospel hymns, slave chants and the labour movement — are included in the film. These include "We Shall Overcome," "I Shall Not Be Moved," "Keep Your Eyes On The Prize,"  "Which Side Are You On?," "I'm On My Way," "Here's To The State Of Mississippi," "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" and "Marching Up To Freedom Land." The twist is that the songs are performed by current artists, including Angie Stone, Joss Stone, The Roots, TV On The Radio, John Legend, Blind Boys Of Alabama, Wyclef Jean, Mary Mary and Richie Havens.

You probably won't learn much new if you've read or seen other films or television programs about this subject, or especially if you've visited the excellent National Civil Rights Museum on the site of the former Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, but this film is still important if for no other reason that it reinforces some positive messages and shines a light on a dark period of American history that occurred less than 50 years ago.

Soundtrack For A Revolution will screen at Toronto's Bloor Cinema on Feb. 17 at 6:30 and 9:15 p.m. as part of the Doc Soup program. It will receive a theatrical release in Toronto two nights later.

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