Stream shows about music and running, deliver delight and anger
Viewers who enjoy music from the ’60s and’ 70s will enjoy the songs and the senses in a few new shows airing over the next few weeks, and people of all ages should enjoy two mini-series that depict legacy – and horror. – in the past of our country.
First, two documentaries – “Summer of Soul” (on Hulu) and “1971” (on Apple TV +) – feature Sly & the Family Stone, Curtis Mayfield, BB King, Gil Scott-Heron and more. Streaming offers more opportunity, more variety and MORE, period, so documentaries are thriving, and three of the four recommended productions are documentaries, and the fourth dramatizes the facts of a historical novel.
All four evoke a range of emotions: joy and rage, tears and pride, doubt and confirmation.
* “Summer of Soul: Or… When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised”, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s first directing effort, is a film featuring previously unreleased footage from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, recalled as ” Black Woodstock “. having occurred the same summer. Held over six weeks, the series of festivals celebrated history and culture, and the Questlove film has performances by Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight & the Pips, the 5th Dimension, Herbie Mann, Mahalia Jackson, the Chambers Brothers and more, with the safety of Black Panther Party, as well as recent sightings from Chris Rock, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jesse Jackson and others. It won the August Prize and the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
* “1971: The Year Music Changed Everything”, co-directed by Asif Kapadia, Danielle Peck and James Rogan, in eight episodes features a mix of music and commentary from Marvin Gaye, the Rolling Stones, James Brown, War, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Joni Mitchell, Bill Withers, Bob Marley, Elton John, Graham Nash, Carole King, Jim Morrison, Tina Turner…) and archival remarks from John Lennon and behind-the-scenes moments from Bob Dylan rehearsing with George Harrison), all to focus on this fractured period.
“There was a huge divide in America because of Viet Nam,” said Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde, who was a student at Kent State when soldiers shot at student protesters, killing four people. “Shocked! Yes!”
* “Exterminate All the Brutes” (HBO Max), directed by Raoul Peck (who directed the famous “I Am Not Your Negro”, based on the works of James Baldwin), will elicit different reflections, allowing the public to witness six centuries of hatred and brutality based on colonialism and white supremacy, from the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition to the genocide of the Native Americans after Columbus and the slavery of Africans to the Holocaust and anti-immigrant sentiments still alive through neo-Nazis and other rightists.
Stemming in part from Europe’s legacy of racism against the Irish, Slavs, Jews and Roma (sometimes known by the derogatory term Gypsies), the four-part series, which has villainous dramatizations by the actor Josh Hartnett, can be overwhelming, but it should leave an indelible impression.
“You already know enough,” said the late historian Sven Lindquist. “What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and to draw conclusions.”
* Finally, “The Underground Railroad” (Amazon Prime), directed by Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”), is a moving tale following people played by Aaron Pierre and Thuso Mbedu fleeing Georgia’s bondage through South Carolina, the North Carolina and Tennessee. It’s moving and difficult to watch, even though the actors seem to be looking directly at us, as if to say, “See? “
Throughout, it is hoped that glimpses of evil can help generate empathy and understanding.
Seeing and hearing such productions begs the question whether there are sometimes exceptions to FCC President Newton Minow’s description of television in 1961 as “vast wasteland.”
Bill Knight has been a journalist, editor and columnist for over 50 years. Also an author, Knight is Emeritus Professor of Journalism at WIU, where he taught for over 20 years. Contact him at [email protected]; for archives, go to https://mayflyproductions.blogspot.com/.