Wattstax: Special Edition, The (DVD)
On August 20, 1972, more than 100,000 people attended what came to be known as "The Black Woodstock." Wattstax - The Special Edition is the 30th anniversary release of the film that documented that historic event and includes the once-lost original ending featuring Isaac Hayes' performances of "Theme From Shaft" and "Soulsville."
]]> They called Wattstax the "black Woodstock," but there are many differences between that seminal hippie event and the 1972 concert documented in this 30th-anniversary special-edition reissue. Woodstock was all about peace, love, and music. Wattstax, held three years later in Los Angeles, had those elements as well; but as this 103-minute film reminds us, it was a more socio-politically charged event, with its emphasis on black pride and the simple opportunity for African Americans to assert that, in opening speaker Jesse Jackson's words, "I am somebody." There's also a good deal less music in this film than in the Woodstock
movie. As the title suggests, a host of great Stax Records artists (including Rufus and Carla Thomas, the Bar-Kays, the Staple Singers, Albert King, and show closer Isaac Hayes) performed, but much of Wattstax
doesn't even take place inside the L.A. Coliseum, where the concert was held, but rather in the churches and shops and on the streets of Watts itself (music fans would be better off checking out the Wattstax
double CD). Wattstax
, in fact, is much less a music movie than a chronicle of black life seven years after the Watts race riots, as well as what comedian Richard Pryor (who delivers several hilarious but scathing bits) calls "a soulful expression of the black experience." --Sam Graham