By Alan Frank in Britain:
The voice of change
Friday 19th February 2016
Directed by Jessica Edwards
Despite some (mostly unavoidable) hagiographical undertones, director Jessica Edwards’s documentary creates an appealing, frequently moving portrait of renowned 76-year-old blues-gospel-R’n’B singer Mavis Staples.
“I am here!” Staples announces at the start when we learn she has been on the road for 60 years in a career which, she states, provided her audiences and patently herself as well, with with joy, happiness and some positive vibrations.
Edwards deploys a compelling amalgam of to-camera interviews, fascinating archive material, photographs along with live concert and television footage to tell Staples’s story.
Fans of the Grammy winner are attractively catered for while the life and career of Mavis, who was born in Chicago in 1939, makes fascinating viewing — and listening — for neophytes like myself.
Mavis was the youngest but her powerful voice made her the star.
The gospel group toured the country and made records. Their concert in Montgomery, Alabama, attended by Martin Luther King Jr catalysed a series of potent civil rights songs which, along with Mavis’s success as a solo artist and recording with such greats as Prince and her 2011 Grammy for the album You Are Not Alone, makes this very watchable.
Edwards blends her varied assortment of musical, visual and storyline elements tellingly into a consistently interesting narrative.
While Dylan, Prince and other famous faces make their contributions, the most fascinating and memorable character in the film is, fittingly, Mavis herself.
This music video from the USA is called Uncloudy Day – The Staple Singers.