“Spring Into Music” series concludes Apr. 26 with Aretha Franklin doc “Amazing Grace,” presented by Thabisa

Best Video Film & Cultural Center concludes our April “Spring Into Music” film series with the documentary “Amazing Grace” on Tues., Apr. 26. The event will begin at 7 PM with an introduction by New Haven-based Afro-soul singer and activist Thabisa, who will also lead a post-film discussion. Admission is $7.

This is an indoor show so proof of vaccination is required to enter and masks are required.

Support for this series has been provided to Best Video Film & Cultural Center from CT Humanities (CTH), with funding provided by the Connecticut State Department of Economic and Community Development/Connecticut Office of the Arts (COA) from the Connecticut State Legislature.

The series is sponsored by Greenberg Rhein & Margolis Insurance of Woodbridge, CT.

“Amazing Grace” documents the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin recording her live gospel album of the same name at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles in 1972. Because the original director, Sydney Pollack, had not use clapperboards in the filming, it was believed the sound could not be accurately synched with the film footage; the unreleased film sat on the shelf for decades. Alan Elliott purchased the rights in 2007 and successfully synchronized the visuals and sound. The film was released with the approval of Franklin’s family in 2018.

At the performance, Franklin was accompanied by the Southern California Community Choir, directed by Alexander Hamilton. James Cleveland is master of ceremonies and plays piano. The band is Cornell Dupree, Bernard Purdie, Chuck Rainey, Kenny Luper, and Poncho Morales. “Amazing Grace” was the best-selling record of Aretha Franklin’s career and won the 1973 Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance.

Thabisa’s story begins in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Born and raised by her grandparents in KwaZakhele township, she could always be found singing and dancing outside her home. Neighbors gave her the name “Little Brenda” for the legendary South African pop star Brenda Fassie.

In 2012 she entered the national singing competition, Idols South Africa, and finished in the Top 18. The following year, she signed on with the independent record label Tammy Music and produced two albums, “Eyodidi” (2015) and “The Journey” (2013).

Thabisa received a nomination for Best Video at the South African Traditional Music Awards (SATMA) for the song “Vula” off her first album, The Journey. Musically, she finds inspiration from the likes of Miriam Makeba and Billy Holiday, and has shared a stage with living legends Caiphus Simenya, Bebe and Cece Winans, Thandiswa Mazwai and Freshly Ground.

Thabisa currently lives with her family in the United States. “What makes my music worthwhile, is the opportunities it opens for me to work with children and inspire them to dream big” she explained. THABISA volunteers with children using music, cultural exchange, and story-telling.

New releases 8/6/19

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Plus One (rom-com, Maya Erskine. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 66. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Alice [Maya Erskine] is getting over a breakup. Ben [Jack Quaid] is so busy looking for a perfect partner that he never gives relationships a chance to work. In ‘Plus One,’ these longtime friends from college agree to be each other’s dates to what might otherwise be an unbearable marathon of weddings — weddings whose other attendees immediately recognize that they make a natural couple. [The audience will have figured that out from the premise.]” Read more…)

Descendants 3 (Disney fantasy, Dove Cameron. From Brian Lowry’s CNN review: “The tragic death of Cameron Boyce cast an unexpected cloud over ‘Descendants 3,’ the latest edition of the Disney Channel musicals built around the kids of Disney heroes and villains. The show goes on, yielding an at-best serviceable addition to a promising concept that’s beginning to feel worn and tired.” Read more…)

Poms (comedy, Diana Keaton. Rotten Tomatoes: 35%. Metacritic: 36. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “The combined ages of the cheerleaders in ‘POMS’ is well over 500 years, but the movie’s jokes feel even older. An uncomfortable blend of sickness and silliness, this dancing-past-the-graveyard comedy suggests that the many travails of aging can be endured if you only gather enough friends and surrender enough dignity. It might be right; yet there must be better ways to prove it than throwing together some fine actors, then humiliating the heck out of them.” Read more…)

The Curse of La Llorona (horror, Linda Cardellini. Rotten Tomatoes: 30%. Metacritic: 41. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The scares are plentiful and sometimes ticklishly funny in ‘The Curse of La Llorona,’ an enjoyably old-fashioned ghost story. It’s the latest installment in a rapidly expanding horror series that started with ‘The Conjuring’ [2013] and now includes the ‘Annabelle’ flicks [about a devil doll] and ‘The Nun’ [a demon nun]. The connective tissue among these titles can be very thin; here, the most obvious link is Father Perez [Tony Amendola], who’s on hand again to explain that, why, yes, evil exists — boo!” Read more…)

Amazing Grace (music, gospel, concert, Aretha Franklin. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 94. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Wesley Morris’ Times review: “For all kinds of terrible reasons, the movies don’t have that many great shots of black women. They just don’t. But there’s a shot of Aretha Franklin in ‘Amazing Grace’ that might be the greatest image of a black woman that I’ve ever seen in an American movie. It’s just a medium close-up, straight on, of her at the podium of the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, almost evenly framed between two microphones and a pair of Afros that complement hers. The camera doesn’t move. And neither does she, except to sing and even then: she’s moving you.” Read more…)

Head Count (horror, Isaac W. Jay. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 49.)

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Sauvage/Wild (France, drama, Félix Maritaud. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 75. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The opening scene of ‘Sauvage / Wild’ alerts viewers to be up for anything. A doctor [Lionel Riou] takes the symptoms of a patient [Félix Maritaud] and asks him to undress. The doctor turns out to work for the French equivalent of the I.R.S., and the patient — the film’s protagonist — turns out to be a prostitute. This role-playing exercise is hardly the most surprising tryst we will witness over the course of this sexually frank debut feature from the French writer-director Camille Vidal-Naquet.” Read more…)

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Woodstock: Three Days That Defined A Generation (cultural history, music, hippies in mud. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 66.)
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Amazing Grace (music, gospel, concert, Aretha Franklin)