"Soundtrack for a Revolution" DVD Review
November 15, 2010 by Zach Demeter
A fresh and exhilarating take on one of the most important social movements in American history, Soundtrack for a Revolution explores the civil rights struggle through the powerful and stirring songs that inspired a generation. In this deeply moving documentary, legends of the fight for equal rights such as Congressman John Lewis, Julian Bond, Ambassador Andrew Young and Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, Coretta Scott King, testify to the indispensable role that songs of rebellion and hope played in helping activists fight against brutality and injustice. In riveting studio performances, top contemporary artists including John Legend, Wyclef Jean, The Roots and Joss Stone reinvigorate and reinvent timeless songs like “We Shall Overcome” and “Wade in the Water.”
Through a creative combination of historical footage, deeply personal interviews and heartfelt performances, Soundtrack for a Revolution makes an original, emotionally stirring contribution to the civil rights story. This stunning film is a testament to the vitality of music in the lives and times of those who strive for justice.
While the overall subject material of this documentary is deep, the lengths to which it goes to into that subject is rather superficial. The documentary here isn’t so much about the civil rights movement as it is about the music they listened to during that movement. It does impress up on the viewer the importance that music has on history and how we deal with the issues of the day, but that’s about as deep as it goes most of the time. The remainder of the eighty two minute documentary is a lot of music video style shenanigans—which isn’t a bad thing as it would likely attract younger viewers and maybe get them interested in history more. Or something to that effect.
So what is the documentary mostly about? Well, the music of course but it doesn’t really spend all of its time focusing on that. Instead a lot of the documentary switches to the studio where we see artists like Wyclef Jean, Joss Stone and John Legend recording their own versions of the songs of the civil rights era. Even though we’re looking at this venue more than anything when it comes to the documentary, there are still some incredibly strong and moving interviews with survivors of the era, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow.
Although a rather brief documentary, it does nonetheless show how polarizing music can be for a movement that had such weight—so powerful, in fact, that years later we’re still talking about it and watching documentaries about it. It’s definitely a moving and educational documentary and one that comes Recommended, even if it does focus a bit too much on the modern takes on the music for my taste (but, hey, that’s the selling point so I can’t ding too much).
docuramafilms brings Chuck Close to DVD in a standard amaray DVD case. Nothing overly special about the presentation of the documentary here—no fancy exterior cardboard slipcase and the cover itself reminds me of some CD my parents owned in the 90s…but that really has no bearing on anything. Video and audio is a solid presentation overall and about what you’d expect from a documentary. As can be expected from a documentary with mixed video (color and black and white news footage) and the audio is a simple DD2.0 mix.
Full Musical Performances from John Legend, Wyclef Jean, Mary Mary, Blind Boys of Alabama & Anthony Hamilton, Richie Havens, The Roots, and Angie Stone
Bonus Musical Performance from the Carlton Reese Memorial Unity Choir
Deleted Scenes and Interviews
Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery
Once again there’s a focus on the modern performances in the extras, but the new footage is fairly entertaining regardless and a nice bonus to the disc. The additional interviews are also a welcome addition, as I felt they could’ve used a bit more of them in the documentary itself. Overall, a Recommended disc.
Soundtrack for a Revolution is now available on DVD.