Quickcard Review - 46th Chicago International Film Festival CLICK HERE for complete coverage of the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF 2010)
Directed by: Mark Landsman Cast: Conrad "Prof" Johnson Sr. and the Kashmere Stage Band Running Time: 1 hr 25 mins Rating: PG Release Date: TBD
PLOT: Thunder Soul follows the origins of a legendary stage band in Texas. This documentary charts their successes and their failures as they prepare to reunite over 30 years later to pay tribute to their charismatic band leader.
WHO'S IT FOR? Music fans, particularly if you enjoy funk, will enjoy this, but also just fans of good storytelling and engaging people. If you were a fan of Standing in the Shadows of Motown or Young @ Heart you can't afford to miss this one.
Every so often you come across that one movie that reminds you of all that film has to offer. There are times when a movie can make you laugh or it can make you cry. Thunder Soul can't be pinned down to just one of those categories though. Documentary offers up all the messiness of real life and that's exactly what this movie brings to the table.
But don't mistake that for a criticism. It's that sense of life that makes Thunder Soul so completely engaging. The movie supplies a healthy dose of context, examining the political unrest and what it meant to be black at the time, with the men and women that the Kashmere stage band has become. The mixture of the past and present seems somewhat jarring at first, but soon establishes a steady rhythm that I was able to keep up with as the movie progressed. This kept the movie from becoming too stale over time, a problem that plagues far too many documentaries, even ones as short as 80-some minutes.
Still, what ultimately won me offer wasn't a passing interest in funk or even my fascination with the civil unrest that's so characteristic of the time period. It was the emotion that the movies manages to muster up. People always seem to be talking about the feeling or the spirit of something, but none have ever captured it as eloquently as Landsman does with this film. The excitement and the passion is palpable throughout Thunder Soul. At times it borders on too personal, but before crossing that imaginary line, it usually scales back just enough that the emotional connection remains intact. In a way, it almost felt like sneaking into somebody else's class reunion. Like, you know that you shouldn't be doing it, but by the time the movie was over, I was glad that I had. Sure, all of the history isn't there, but this documentary finds a way of making the viewer feel included rather than a peeping tom.
In the end, Thunder Soul offers more than a look back at the glory days of a high school stage band. It brings to the table the whole gang. A truly inspiring educator who feels more like a father figure than anything else, the former students who have grown into mothers and fathers themselves, and a mutual respect for the music and the story it tells. Thunder Soul inspires as a piece of documentary film making without the expense of genuine emotion.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10