In 1972 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, Willy Wonka director Mel Stuart captures the performances of the Watts Summer Festival. Organized by Stax Records, the festival is a gathering of musicians and entertainers from the black community, brought together to remember the Watts Riots from seven years prior. Key performances include The Staples Singers, Rufus Thomas, the Bar-Keys, Albert King, Carla Thomas and a monologue from a young Richard Pryor. Isaac Hayes finishes things off with the theme from Shaft.
An invaluable time capsule… electrifying performances.
The AV Club
The movie itself is a curious, sometimes frustrating, sometimes delirious amalgam. Rather than a straight concert film or even (like Woodstock) an attempt to chronicle the event as a whole, it intercuts the music with a series of man-on-the-street interviews… The aim is to connect the concerns of members of the community with the songs themselves, and one result is that Wattstax is far more political for even having these discussions in the first place than, say, Woodstock. None of the performances in Wattstax are worse than good, and some are spectacular.
Marc Hirsh, NPR
The Staple Singers, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Richard Pryor, Isaac Hayes, Albert King, The Bar-Keys, Jesse Jackson, Johnnie Taylor
Larry Shaw, Mel Stuart
John A. Alonzo
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