Black Power (Pop)

Dedicated to "the black people who made themselves heard," the film Wattstax documents a 1972 concert of Stax Records artists (some of the most scintillating live soul acts on the planet) at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The event was dubbed "the black Woodstock," and though peace, love, and music is palpable in the reels, the concert had a more clearly defined purpose: to commemorate the ’65 Watts riots and the progress made by the black community in the seven years that followed. MC Jesse Jackson refers to it as the shift from "burn baby burn" to "learn baby learn." His impassioned oration alone (which Public Enemy would later sample) demands repeat viewing. And while a documentary of the show would have been transcendent -- what with the superbad soul delivered by the Staples Singers and the Bar-Kays -- much of the movie's power lies in the candid, conflicted words of community members detailing life, love, and the struggle in Los Angeles and America as a whole. Additional performances, such as the Emotions' singing in a church and Johnnie Taylor's fevered club set, make the film less focused on the event and more, as Richard Pryor puts it, "a soulful expression of the black experience."
Sept. 2-3

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