Soul Power documents the three-day music festival that accompanied the iconic 1974 Muhammad Ali/George Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle" boxing match in Zaire. Culled by director Jeffrey Levy-Hinte from over 125 hours of footage shot by Paul Goldsmith, Kevin Keating, Roderick Young, and Albert Maysles—and then relegated to the vaults after director Leon Gast didn't use it in his Oscar-winning 1996 documentary When We Were Kings—Soul Power features performances by Celia Cruz, the Spinners, Fania All-Stars, Bill Withers, B.B. King, Miriam Makeba, and more. The concerts were meant to be a cultural exchange between African and African-American musicians (the late, great Cruz fiercely reps Cuba in a movie-stealing number), but were briefly imperiled after a Foreman eye injury forced a postponement of the fight. When finally mounted, the shows became the stuff of pop-culture folklore. Given the ferocious power of many of the artists and the dreary state of modern black pop (the recent death of Michael Jackson, not to mention Vibe, only underscore the situation), Soul Power itself might well be subtitled When We Were Kings.
Mr. Brown goes to Africa.
Opens at Varsity, Fri., July 31. Rated PG-13. 93 minutes.