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Starring Gil Scott-Heron
Directed by Robert Mugge
When Gil Scott-Heron passed in 2011 the world lost one of it’s most talented and influential voices. His remarkable music and poetry echoes today in hip-hop and rap, his socially-conscious activism continues with Black Lives Matter. As a musician his works have maintained their freshness and vitality years later, and this 1982 documentary by Robert Mugge showcases this brilliant and outspoken man on stage and in his hometown of Washington, D.C. For those not familiar the film serves as a great introduction to his passion and craft, and for those already acquainted with Scott-Heron, it will only increase the respect that the man commands.
Filmed in concert, Gil Scott-Heron and his fabled Midnight Band performs a variety of his works, including “Waiting For the Axe to Fall” from 1980’s Real Eyes, “Winter in America”, “Johnnesburg” and others that showcase both his ease as a performer as well as a bandleader- including the incredible bass of Robert Gordon- as they accompany his words with a energetic funk/jazz/R+B stew. Considered to be the first movie shot entirely on Steadicam, it looks wonderful on Blu-ray.
Scott-Heron is shown walking the streets of D.C., reciting his poetry (including the still topical “Whitey on the Moon” and “Black History”), and in the Wax Museum Nightclub, where his points concerning America’s inequality are juxtaposed with the statues of Reagan, John Wayne and others. Gil knew how to frame his message, a message that still reverberates to this day. Gil Scott-Heron was one of America’s greatest poets, musicians and ultimately, its social conscious. The world he spoke of – and the injustice meted out by the powerful – has not gone away, in fact, his words seem even more pointed and prescient today. His work should be required reading and viewing, but as he so eloquently stated- The revolution will not be televised. Perhaps Black Wax will go a small way toward turning that around.
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