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Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound

Film should hold interest for admirers of the renowned singer and human-rights activist.

With:
With: Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, David Harris, Gabriel Harris, Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Although it feels more like an authorized biography than an in-depth portrait, “Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound” should hold interest for admirers of the renowned singer, recording artist and human-rights activist. Scheduled for an Oct. 14 airdate on the PBS “American Masters” series after its Toronto Film Festival premiere, this well-crafted docu also will get wide circulation through its upcoming release as part of a CD/DVD package.

Producer-helmer Mary Wharton smartly incorporates archival material and talking-head interviews while following Baez’s life and career from her debut as a teenage performer at the 1957 Newport Folk Festival to her recent tour in support of her 2008 Grammy-nominated album “Day After Tomorrow.” The most interesting segments, not surprisingly, focus on Baez’s involvement with the ’60s civil rights and antiwar movements. Recalling her march with black students in Grenada, Miss., Baez says, “I was celebrity enough that (anti-integration protesters) stopped throwing bricks because the press was there.” But the docu gives equal balance to her artistry, encouraging notables such as Bob Dylan (who’s quite candid about their romantic past) to praise Baez for her “heart-stopping soprano voice” and her enduring musical legacy.

Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound

Production: An American Masters presentation of a Thirteen and Razor & Tie production. Produced by Mary Spector, Mary Wharton. Executive producers, Susan Lacy, Cliff Chenfeld, Craig Balsam. Directed by Mary Wharton. Written by Wharton, Mary Spector.

Crew: Camera (B&W/color), James Fielder; editor, Kris Liem. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, Sept. 25, 2009. (In Toronto Film Festival -- Yonge and Dundas Square.) Running time: 83 MIN.

Cast: With: Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, David Harris, Gabriel Harris, Rev. Jesse Jackson.

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