WATTSTAX (1973)

1973 Wattstax (ing) 01

In 1972, seven years after the Watts riots in Los Angeles, Stax records from Memphis held a concert for the good folks in Watts to commemorate the anniversary of said event.

Tickets cost $1 so as many people from the community could attend. Interestingly when Glastonbury had it’s first festival in 1970, tickets cost only £1.

I love these kind of documentary films; Woodstock, Monterey Pop and Festival Express all cut from the same cloth and from the same time and not trying to form any kind of narrative, simply showing the concert interspersed with talking heads from the time. It washes over you and allows deeper access into the time and world in a way that conventional narratives don’t. You get to imbibe it with less guidance and that can e a good thing. Here, it is great.

Starting with a statement from the great Richard Pryor:

“All of us have something to say, but some are never heard. Over 7 years ago, the people of Watts stood together and demanded to be heard. On a Sunday, this past August, in the Los Angeles coliseum, over 100,000 black people came together to commemorate that moment in American history.”

The film contains several sequences throughout the film with Richard Pryor, holding court and speaking on the black experience. Also throughout are scenes of African-American men and women speaking on this same subject.

What it’s like to be black in America in 1972. These are very entertaining and contain an insight into the struggle, real people with real talk. They are the glue with which the film is joined together.

And then there’s the music, some of the greatest musicians of the time on the Stax label come together for this unique concert. Talking of Coming Together, hearing Jesse Jackson’s stirring opening speech, I immediately recognized the sample that Primal Scream had used for their seminal single Come Together.

“This is a beautiful day….”

From Kim Weston’s Star Spangled Banner through to the Bar-Kays, to the blues from Albert King and ending with the mighty Isaac Hayes, this is a film for music lovers everywhere. Like with the other musical docs I mentioned earlier, Wattstax gets to the core of the time, the concert, the people and the mood of the country.

Here are The Emotions singing Peace Be Still in a local church taken from the film:

 

Directed by Mel Stuart, who also directed Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory and was the first cousin of Marvel’s Stan Lee, here he does a tremendous job bringing all the elements together to create a feeling of what it must have been like to be there. One of the four cinematographers on the film was a certain Larry Clark, who went on to direct Kids.

This is highly recommended to anyone who loves the music, the time, the history and the attitude.

Brilliant.

4/5

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JESUS CAMP (2006)

Jesus_Camp

You can teach anyone anything, if you get them early enough.

Show me the boy and I’ll give you the man.

Becky Fisher, an evangelical pastor in Dakota, runs a religious summer camp for children to indoctrinate them in the word of God. This documentary follows her during the summer of 2005 as she prepares for the camp that year.

The camp is called ‘Kids on Fire School of Ministry’ and is located in Lakewood Park, at Devil’s Lake in North Dakota. These people are so entrenched in the literal word of the Bible they obviously can not see how putting your camp in a place called Devil’s Lake might be a problem.

When talking about how open (read vulnerable) children are Fisher says “They are so useable in Christianity” she goes on to talk about the ‘threat’ of Islam and how the children are being trained in camps overseas to kill.

“I wanna see young people who are committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam. I wanna see them as radically laying down their lives for the gospel, as they are, er, over in Pakistan and Israel and Palestine and all those different places. Because we have, excuse me, but we have the truth.”

As you get to see more of Fisher you realise how massively egocentric she is and how bat-shit crazy she is. There are far too many people out there who mis-use their energy and power to nurture their own agenda without any care or concern for the people they affect.

The film is interlaced with interviews with, a moderate Christian radio presenter who feels that the evangelicals are eschewing logic for blind faith and indoctrination and causing great damage to the religion.

Indoctrination (read brain contamination) is used on these children, empty vessels into which grown ups pour their backwardness; these are broken adults full of their own fears and insecurities. They say that you get the parents you need….

“Let me say something about Harry Potter……….Warlocks are enemies of God….and
I don’t care what kind of hero they are, they’re an enemy of God and had it been in the Old Testament, Harry Potter would have been PUT TO DEATH.”

Clapping

“You don’t make heroes out of warlocks!”

-Pastor Becky Fisher, ladies and gentlemen.

This is a form of torture, an emotional spin, spin, spinning out of control. The placing of politics and warped ideologies into religion has long been a scourge on our race and skews the agendas, complicating and muddying the message.

It’s hard to listen to the kid’s spouting out the nonsense they have been taught and they truly believe what they’re saying because it has been deeply programmed into their minds and this is dangerous. Having recently watched Religulous it’s easy to see the dangers of shutting down open debate, those that think they know and stick to that unwaveringly, not even contemplating any other way.

Telling the kids that there are 60 million children of God who are not here due to abortion and then showing them intricate, fully formed dolls at 7 weeks old and passing them off as truth, well, who wouldn’t be pissed off at that and so the seeds are sown and lives are destroyed by idiotic beliefs that permeate peoples thinking.

It’s all about the long game, mould them while they’re young to become the soldiers of tomorrow. Not much different from the extremist terror camps around the world that are on the news regularly.

Pastor Ted Haggard, the president of the National Associations of Evangelicals and friend and advisor to George Bush Jr, “We’ve decided that the Bible is the word of God, we don’t need to have a general assembly about what we believe, it’s written in the bible….alright, so we don’t have to debate about what we should think about homosexual activity, it’s written in the bible.”

So, there.

Ironically, it came to light soon after this film was released that Ted had been involved with male prostitutes and meth-amphetamine thus disgracing him and forcing him to quit as his role of Pastor. He has apparently been cured of his homosexual tendencies………Yeah, right.

The teachings are the same in the fundamental religious philosophy, train the kids to be warriors, for God. If you have that on your side, terrible things can, have and will happen.

For many evangelicals in America there should be no separation between state and church.

The even-handed way the directors, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, put the film together, at least as far as the lack of external narrative commentary, is commendable, but once the facts are shown it seems quite obvious which side any thinking mind should gravitate towards. This film was nominated for an Best Documentary Oscar the year it came out and the controversy surrounding it forced Becky Fisher to close the camp. This is a good thing.

Too long have grown-ups been allowed to poison the minds of their children and the damage it causes knows no bounds. If judgement is coming, then it’s coming hard for these monsters.

This documentary demands to be seen even to the converted as it highlights the destruction of a generation and we’ll be reaping the rewards in several years, then we shall be able to see the root cause of this nonsense. Let’s stop before it becomes too late. Please.

3.5/5

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