Thu, Aug 27, 2009 (midnight)
Soul Power is best described as a musically minded, long-overshadowed younger sibling to the all-state athleticism of 1996 documentary When We Were Kings. Both were filmed in the celebratory Zaire environment surrounding the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” heavyweight championship fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, and both feature appearances by the likes of Don King, George Plimpton and festival producer Stewart Levine. Logistics and anticipation feature heavily throughout, and the progression of each takes a hit when injury leads to a six-week match postponement. Unfortunately, though the DNA is much the same (director Levy-Hinte edited Kings; Kings director Leon Gast produced Power), the best genes lie in only one offspring.
Power’s colorful footage follows James Brown, B.B. King, The Spinners and others on their journey from an airport Holiday Inn through a mid-flight jam to a homeland they’ve never seen, where promoters and stagehands scramble to ensure the corresponding show will yet go on. Highlights include concert clips from the buoyant three-night spectacle, performers interacting with their street counterparts and a testy festival financial rep playing ’70s precursor to The Office’s Dwight Schrute. However, the wide array of music, dance, costumes and characters ultimately pales in comparison to Ali’s scant screen time. When the primary reaction is to queue up the film’s livelier counterpart on Netflix, Power doesn’t quite hold the power to stand alone.