In 1974, the most celebrated American R&B acts of the time came together with the most renowned musical groups in Africa for one ultimate twelve-hour concert experience. Spanning over three days, the music festival never would have seen the light of day had Hugh Masekela and Stewart Livine not convinced boxing promoter Don King to combine the event with the epic 'The Rumble in the Jungle' battle between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. For those that recall, the fight was delayed and ended up being a complete hogwash; however, the live music was a huge success as unique sounds and musical diversity took center stage and shined.
In Soul Power, the music is the driving force. Archival footage from the events leading up to the fight is shown; nonetheless, the bulk of the film centers around the music and its importance to the people of Zairian, Africa.
Levy-Hinte, who makes his debut with this documentary, sets the bar high for any future film. I will admit that I am not a huge R&B fan; regardless, I found myself entertained and enlightened by both the music and its backdrop of a story. From the likes of James Brown and BB King, to Bill Withers and Celia Cruz, not one artist walked out on that stage and disappointed. Instead, each rose to the occasion, enjoying their roots and giving the spectators exactly what they had come to see - a show.
However, as the film plays on, and more and more never-before-seen footage is revealed, the music begins to serve as a secondary interest, moving aside for the true meaning of the festival - world unity. Here we have two completely separate groups of people, uniting for a common interest. It is an optimistic outlook for sure; one that would spark much debate as to its overall success. However, for these performers and spectators, history was being made. Levy-Hinte is able to grab that emotion and spit it out for everyone to experience, creating the ideal film for anyone interested in the subject.
Still, the feature caters to an older audience than my age group. I have heard, and can somewhat appreciate, the music of the 70s. But in all honesty, I cannot understand the time in which this event was taking place. Jeffrey Levy-Hinte shows himself as a force within the documentary genre of filmmaking; yet, the entire movie is made from archival footage. So a question mark still looms as to his ability to to get behind the camera. But nothing should be taken away from him, or from the film for that matter. Just understand that Soul Power is truly a hit or miss affair, and it depends on your love and appreciation for R&B and its many musical legends; for that will ultimately determine whether this film is truly meant for you..