Overview of African-American gospel sounds whose dazzling talent-display should exhilarate viewers.

Drawing on the voluminous materials collected by archivist-producer Joe Lauro, vet music documentarian Don McGlynn has created in “Rejoice and Shout” an overview of African-American gospel sounds whose dazzling talent-display should exhilarate viewers regardless of religious leanings. Preaching to the converted via target-marketing could gain Magnolia’s planned fall release an audience well beyond docu norms; long ancillary shelf life is guaranteed.

The matter of faith itself is addressed right away, with Smokey Robinson most eloquent in describing music as a natural means of expressing spirituality. Pic then marches chronologically through highlights from gospel’s history, from plantation to first recording (the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet in 1902) to a succession of stellar 20th-century acts. Decision to show an entire, uninterrupted number from each group with surviving performance footage provides terrifically diverse entertainment and a few real revelations. Especially notable are potent singer-guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the Swan Silvertones (led by Claude Jeter’s dramatic falsetto), in addition to more widely known crossover artists like Mahalia Jackson. In between, latter-day commentators note the form’s constant evolution. Though evenly paced, the smartly packaged film’s two hours race by.

Rejoice and Shout

Docu

Production

A Magnolia Pictures release of a Deep Rivers production. Produced by Joe Lauro. Executive producers, Mark Cuban, Todd Wagner. Directed by Don McGlynn.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, HD), John Polsen, Steve Wacks; editor, Frank Axelsen. Reviewed at San Francisco Film Festival (competing), April 24, 2010. Running time: 115 MIN.

With

Smokey Robinson, Andrae Crouch, Mavis Staples, Ira Tucker, Marie Knight, Willa Ward, Ira Tucker Jr., Anthony Heilbut, Bill Carpenter, Jacquie Gayles Webb, the Selvey Family, Darrel Petties.
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