Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Movie Review: Rejoice and Shout
One of the most beautiful things about human life has to be our ability to soar above circumstances, to survive through trials and tribulations, to thrive even in the midst of great sorrow, to sing even in the darkness. Gospel music is a testimony to the Spirit at work in and through people who never seem to get a break, people who struggle under oppression, people who face death and sadness and injustice, yet people who refuse to give up, lose their hope or lose their dignity.
Rejoice and Shout (Magnolia Pictures) is a testimony to that gospel spirit, telling the story of a people's song as they traveled the difficult road of slavery, racism and oppression in the United States. It is also a veritable feast for the eyes and ears, using more than ample vintage audio, photography, and video. It's a history lesson into this wonderful music, taking the audience hundreds of years into the past when gospel songs were sung on plantations, up through the creation of early gospel quartets at the turn of the (last) century, right up into the gospel resurgence of the 60s and 70s and new gospel today. Old favorites are here, in the form of Mahalia Jackson, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and Thomas Dorsey; in addition, newer additions to the genre like Andrae Crouch, the Winans, and Kirk Franklin make an appearance.
It's a story of hope, of journeying toward a blessed reward for suffering faced here. The church plays a prime role, and gospel preachers get their say. The interplay of music, revival, and Pentecostalism is explored. Ecstatic experience gives way to exuberant singing, and joyful singing gives hope and joy to those experiencing it.
Especially important are the interviews with the men and women who lived through Gospel's growth in the mid 20th Century. Interviews with Smokey Robinson, Mavis Staples, and so many others give a unique view of the fertile ground out of which this beautiful sound grew. Their joy as singers and songwriters gives proof that gospel is first and foremost a music of the heart, and that those who have the privilege of participating are all welcome in the family.
Rejoice and Shout is open in limited engagements, so you'll have to check out the website to see if it's playing near you. If you have the change, do go and enjoy this marvelous film. You'll be educated, entertained, and uplifted' probably, if you're like me, you'll come away with a song resonating in your heart.