Soul Power is the kind of documentary that can make you nostalgic for a time in which you may not have even been born. When Don King announced the most famous fight in boxing history, the Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman ‘Rumble in the Jungle,’ the idea was floated of having a three day music festival beforehand -this subsequently became the star-studded affair including Bill Withers, B. B. King and James Brown labelled Zaire 74.
Soul Power is director Jeffrey Levy-Hinte’s labour of love pieced together from the hours of footage left behind during the making of the Oscar-winning documentary When We Were Kings. It moves in a cinéma vérité style through the amazing 13 hour flight that had all the stars on one plane, the behind-the-scenes wrangling and the festival itself, and gives us candid footage of the stars reveling in the opportunity to perform in Africa at a time when black power did, and had to, mean something.
The boxing event is not completely ignored either and we see great moments featuring champion Muhammad Ali: railing against racism in America, proclaiming his divine right to victory and hilariously debating over the energy of African flies in comparison to their American counterparts.
Taking a decision to eschew retrospective interviews or use of any new footage allows the original material to work for itself. And it is great material, where you can see African legend Miriam Makeba and James Brown at his most charismatic, giving the type of exhilarating performance only he could. Soul Power has a shuddering intensity that, aided by great camerawork and judicious editing, will send you flying home to become reacquainted with those long forgotten records and probably out again to get some more.
Soul Power screening, Sun 29 Nov, 7pm @ Roundhouse