Sundance ’08 — Day 3, Sat., 1/19/08

Dispatch direct from Sundance
By Cathleen Rountree, critic and film journalist

A broad spectrum of music-based documentaries and narratives echo through Sundance this year, including “Patti Smith: Dream of Life” (see yesterday’s post), “CSNY: Dèjá Vu,” “Anvil!: The True Story of Anvil,” and “U2 3D” (which I’ll rock to tomorrow at midnight). In addition to these, today I cheered on –– for different reasons –– two stellar documentaries: “Young @ Heart,” directed by Stephen Walker (UK) and “Slingshot Hip Hop,” directed by Jackie Reem Salloum.

The day before on the venue-to-venue shuttle, I’d overheard a twenty-something-couple rave about “Young @ Heart,” which they’d seen at an industry screening in L.A. Having read the film’s catalogue description, I was mildly interested, but when I arrived too late for entry into “Stranded: I’ve come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountain” (France, Gonzolo Arijon), I headed for “Heart.” And what a thrilling, poignant, inspiring experience it was. I have no doubt this doc will win some Festival award, find an enthusiastic distributor, and go on to thrill audiences both mature and youthful.

The eponymous Young @ Heart, a chorus comprised entirely of senior citizens in Northampton, Mass., has entertained audiences stateside and abroad since 1982. Okay, so far, nothing exceptional. But, dig this, their entire repertoire consists of rock’n’roll, punk, and R&B tunes. Sting, David Bowie, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Coldplay, the Clash(!) and Sonic Youth! The members’ ages range from 75 to 92. “Use it or lose it,” jokes Mary, 85, when asked why she belongs to the chorus.

“Young @ Heart” holds many surprises (like turning the notion of MTV music videos on its ear) and satisfies the essential question: what do we require as we grow older (during any age, really)? Nurturing family and friends, a fulfilling sense of community, compelling interests, stimulating conversation, a reason to get up in the morning. As a middle-aged woman from the audience declared after Young @ Heart’s concert at The Academy of Music: “I’m never going to complain about being tired or old again!”

Here’s a timely question for you: Can Hip-Hop supersede terrorism? The Palestinian rappers –– DAM and PR (Palestinian Rapperz) –– in “Slingshot Hip Hop” leave no doubt as their “words descend on you like kamikazes” and they serve their communities in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank as activists for (nonviolent) social change and prove that music is as powerful as bombs.


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