Larry Shaw

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Wattstax Review


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1972's Wattstax concert was, in no uncertain terms, the black Woodstock. Peace and love, for sure, but based in L.A. to commemorate the 1965 Watts race riots instead of on a New York farm to celebrate drugs, mud, and hippie tunes.

Just as Wattstax the event was a serious social event that just so happened to include a little music, Wattstax the movie is much less a concert film (a la Woodstock or The Last Waltz) and much more a talking head documentary with musical interludes. Depending on your frame of mind, that can be a good or a bad thing. But director Mel Stuart (who made Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory two years earlier) is probably not the perfect person to take a camera into Los Angeles to ask black residents how things have changed (or not) since the riots seven years earlier. There's frankly just not a lot of insight to be gained from the poorly shot man-on-the-street footage.

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