“Rejoice and Shout” spreads the good news – Gospel’s history

“Rejoice and Shout” is a feature-length documentary, from director Don McGlynn, about the history of Gospel music.  It’s described as a rhythmic, ancestral pillar that African-Americans used to sustain themselves and to keep sane during their centuries in slavery.  It told the audience that, at least at church, beyond the anglo gaze, “I am Somebody!”

One of the Blind Boys groups (courtesy Magnolia Pictures)

A staple of the documentary genre is cutting between archival and interview footage.  This film does that.  It tells an interesting, surprising and entertaining story, omitting any dogma that you might expect.  It runs down the time-line of the genre and its innovations, some typical, others “unholy.”

It shows at the Edina Cinema for a week starting on July 8.  This documentary provides a who’s who of the indelible and most potent Gospel artists, also dredging up memories of folks who time might have forgotten.  “Rejoice and Shout” makes clear that as long as the music is understood as honoring God, then it should please Him and in-turn his followers.

It tells about Gospel music’s pivotal personalities, trends and game-changing innovations, it tells about clashing sensibilities of faith and styles of music.  At the heart of some innovations  is a question:  isn’t it unholy marry rap with gospel, or blues with gospel, or any popular music with that pious one?

Mavis Staples (courtesy Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

This story tells us how Thomas A. Dorsey, while ultimately revered, caught hell for having mixed the blues with Gospel, making what some considered heretical.  (Ray Charles had similar clashes when he took those chances.)  It tells us how Rosetta Tharpe, who may be less known than Mavis Staples, inspired the latter to take up the guitar; before Ms. Tharpe did it, Ms. Staples hadn’t known that it was possible.  And without the Dixie Hummingbirds, The Temptations might not’ve been.

Many documentaries are more creative, with editing, location and other choices, and take chances with their storytelling.  “Rejoice and Shout” is a strong, competent film.

Biography of Pakistan’s “Bhutto” is a political action movie that grabs you

“Bhutto” is a three-level history of Pakistan, its culture, its people, with Ms. Benazir Bhutto’s accomplishments front-and-center.  She was Pakistan’s first female Prime Minister, but didn’t rise from nothing.  Her dad, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, himself a former Pakistani Prime Minister, had to come first.

Benazir Bhutto, fmr Pakistani Prime Minister (courtesy First Run Features)

He set his progressive, maybe radical, example in the home and office, and a precedent for his daughter Benazir Bhutto.  This story isn’t just hers, or theirs, but also the state’s.

“Bhutto” is a potent, exceptional feature-length political documentary, from Duane Baughman & Johnny O’Hara, about a family that broke with customs to make history.  Truly, it’s a political action movie!  While it’s not Jason Bourne, the dramatic and consequences are just as tense.  Pakistan is a zealous Muslim state that’s both troubled and troublesome; in part because of fundamentalists, and the military and their diverging goals.  Women were only noticed if that suited the men, as long as there was no trouble, no waves made.  Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s story is vital to the state’s broader one.  Before her, women were never expected – or wanted – to serve the people by leading them.

Landmark Theatre’s Lagoon Cinema will begin showing “Bhutto” on Jan 28th.

This political documentary film provides a concise primer on Pakistan’s and the Bhutto family’s dense, complex and compelling interwoven stories, which are both personal and political – powerful.  Now, politics and family are often a dramatic mix; consider America’s Kennedy’s, the Windsor’s (the Royal Family) of Great Britain or the Daley’s of Chicago.  Adding contentious questions of gender or religion, or both to that mix is incendiary. The grooming of a groundbreaking stateswoman is a great story for ambitious girls.

We get all of this in one fascinating, highly intelligent, even urbane film.  Some people might find “Bhutto” too complex, too dense and too deep.  It mixes a few major moving parts.  While it’s a political documentary, the incendiary topics make it a political action movie.   Either one of these stories, about either of the Prime Ministers Bhutto, father or daughter, of about the state, could be full-length history entertainment.  Outside of PBS’ POV series it’s hard to come up with another film, documentary or not that deals with pioneering women politicians.  Particularly in lands where women only known as wives and mothers, serving families, never nation states.

Ms. Bhutto’s story, while dramatic, walks beside her dad’s.  She is her father’s daughter.  The dad, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s, story was vital to show his Prime Minister daughter’s origins, how she grow with fewer fears than other women.  He broke with tradition and custom, after Benazir wore a burqa for the first time.  After his wife told him that their daughter had worn that, he considered what the custom meant to him and he told her that Benazir didn’t have to wear it.  That helped to break the mold of a traditional Pakistani woman.

If we were to score this: 4.5 from 5.

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