Stax and Soul Music saluted at Hollywood rock film festival

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    otis redding
    Check out an entire weekend of movies celebrating Stax records and soul music at L.A.'s Mods & Rockers Film Festival on Saturday July 21 and Sunday July 22 at Hollywood's Egyptian Theater

    otis redding

    LOS ANGELES -- The prestigious Mods & Rockers Film Festival presented annually by the American Cinematheque will honor the 50th anniversary of Stax Records with a five-film cinematic salute. The tribute will take place over the entire weekend of Saturday and Sunday July 21st and 22nd.  Films being shown include legendary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker's 2003 "Only The Strong Survive" together with Pennebaker's "Shake! Otis At Monterey" - a film of Otis Redding's legendary performance at the 1967 festival.  This screening will be attended by D.A. Pennebaker and Sam Moore of "Sam & Dave" - one of the stars featured in "Only The Strong Survive".

    Saturday July 21st also sees the World Premiere of "Respect Yourself," a new two-hour documentary celebration of Stax Records that features a who's who of Stax artists - including a considerable amount of long-lost vintage footage - together with interviews with fervent Stax admirers such as Bono, Elvis Costello and Chuck D. On Sunday July 22nd the festival presents the American premiere of a newly-unearthed 1967 Norwegian TV special that captured the legendary "Stax Revue" of that year - the only known full-length visual record of that tour. Rounding off the Stax tribute will be the celebrated concert film shot in L.A. in 1972 "Wattstax".

    Founded by Jim Stewart (the "ST") in 1957, and co-owned by Estelle Axton (the "AX"), Stax's contribution to popular music, both sonically and socially, continues to be felt to this day. Stax, a racially integrated label in a then notoriously segregated city, released hit after hit from such seminal soul artists as Otis Redding, Booker T & the MGs, the Bar-Kays, Isaac Hayes, Sam & Dave, the Staple Singers, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd, Johnnie Taylor, and William Bell among many, many others.  The Stax studio, in a cavernous former movie theatre with a sloping floor, featured an atypical layout with no directly parallel surfaces causing sound waves to "ping pong" around the room, resulting in a very live, reverberant sound. The Stax studio sonics -- combined with the prominent use of horns, a heavy gospel influence, uniquely emotional vocal deliveries, and a delayed backbeat -- resulted in what came to be recognized as the "Stax Sound." The Stax Sound defined such classic compositions as "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay," "Respect Yourself," "Hold On I'm Comin'," "Mr. Big Stuff," "Soul Man," "Green Onions," "Knock on Wood" and "I'll Take You There."

    This year, on Stax's 50th Anniversary, its new owners Concord Music Group have reactivated the label with many new signings, reissues and special events. The year started with the release of the Stax 50 two-CD set which traced the history of the label. One of SXSW's major events this year was the Stax Reunion. The definitive "Stax 50th Anniversary Reunion Concert" - a benefit for the Stax Museum of American Soul Music - was held in Memphis on June 22. The Hollywood Bowl will present a Stax reunion show on July 18. And on August 1, PBS will premiere Great Performances' "Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story," a film by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon, which as noted above, receives its theatrical premiere on Saturday, July 21 in the Mods & Rockers Film Festival in Hollywood.

    Following is a synopsis of the Stax films which will be shown at the Mods & Rockers Film Festival:

    Saturday July 21, 2007 - 9:00pm
    Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood

    (2007, 115 mins, Tremolo Productions, Directed by Morgan Neville & Robert Gordon)
    Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Stax Records, this brand new documentary created for PBS is the authoritative history of the rise of the Memphis soul label that changed the world. The film is jammed with amazing archive rarities. Live performances, forgotten TV appearances, home movies, news footage, lost recordings of all the legendary Stax artists from Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes to Sam & Dave and the Staples Singers. The film is also the story of the civil rights movement and how the music created at Stax mirrored the glories and pains of that struggle. The film offers fresh insights from the survivors together with heartfelt testimony from Stax devotees ranging from Bono and Elvis Costello to Chuck D.
    Discussion following with the filmmakers
    Saturday July 21, 2007 - 6:00pm
    Egyptian Theatre, Hollywoood

    (2003, 95 mins, Pennebaker Films, Directed by D.A. Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus)
    On learning that there was little or no surviving film footage or videotape of many of the greatest 60s and 70s soul artists performing on-stage, documentary filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus (husband-and-wife team) - working with entertainment journalist (and soul music devotee) Roger Friedman - set out to capture some of the great artists on film while they were still with us. Fortunately a large number of the performers in question were still performing on a regular basis - and in great form. The film features knockout performances from such R&B legends as Wilson Pickett, Jerry Butler, Isaac Hayes, the Chi-Lights, Carla Thomas, Mary Wilson, Ann Peebles, Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave), and many more, as well as interviews in which the artists discuss the ups and downs of their careers. It includes stunning performance footage of Memphis R&B pioneer Rufus Thomas, who passed on at the age of 84 shortly after being filmed. This is a dream celebration of the artists and songs that won America's heart . . . and filled it with soul. Special Guests at the screening - In addition to filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus - will be Roger Friedman and "Soul Man" legend Sam Moore of Sam & Dave.

    (1967, 20 mins, Pennebaker Films, Directed by D.A. Pennebaker)
    Pennebaker captured the entirety of Otis Redding's legendary 1967 Monterey appearance revealing the breath-taking showmanship that thrilled the festival audience as much as the pyrotechnics-fueled Hendrix and Who. Redding and his backing band (the stunning Booker T & The MGs) were fresh from their triumphant appearances on the Stax Revue of Europe (see Sunday July 22nd - 7.30pm at The Egyptian) and in top form. This film leaves you breathless with the sheer joy of Otis Redding - and underscores the enormity of the loss we suffered by his death just 5 months later.
    Sunday July 22, 2007 - 7:30pm
    Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood

    STAX REVUE 1967
    (1967, 78 mins, Reelin' In The Years Productions)
    A platinum gem recently unearthed in the vaults of Norwegian TV and never before seen in the US! It's the only known full-length film of the legendary 1967 Stax Revue - the European tour that sparked the soul revolution. Beautifully shot with multiple cameras in a controlled studio environment with quality sound - we get to experience the excitement that Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Arthur Conley, Booker T. & The MGs brought to Europe in that halcyon tour. The film has been digitally-restored and this is its US Premiere!

    (1973, 104 mins, Sony Repertory, Directed by Mel Stuart)
    This is the landmark 1972 concert that teamed soul music with Black Pride - and was dubbed the "black Woodstock". And so it was - but it's also much more than that. Not only are there riveting performances - but the film also documents the socio-political background to the event. An emphasis on black pride and the opportunity for African-Americans to assert that - in the immortal words from Jesse Jackson's concert prologue - "I Am Somebody". The film presents a slew of great Stax Records artists performing at the L.A. Coliseum including: Rufus & Carla Thomas, the Staple Singers, Albert King, Johnnie Taylor Kim Weston the Bar-Kays and concert-closer Isaac Hayes. We also experience the churches, shops and streets of Watts - just seven years after the race riots that scarred the city. The film delivers what comedian Richard Pryor (who delivers hilarious scathing observations) calls "a soulful expression of the black experience." We are showing the gloriously restored, extended 2003 version.

    Read about the Mods & Rockers Film Festival:
    Los Angeles Times - Thursday July 12, 2007 
    Feature story about the Festival  
    L.A. Weekly - Thursday July 12, 2007 
    Feature story about the Festival  
    L.A. Weekly - Thursday July 12, 2007 
    Column story about the Festival - Wednesday July 11, 2007 
    Column story about the Festival  
    Hollywood Today - Wednesday July 11, 2007 
    Feature story about the Festival 
    KTTV-Fox TV - Tuesday July 10, 2007 
    TV Interview about the Festival  

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