Review: Make It Soul
Updated: Mar 3, 2022
Chicago, winter 1965.
The Regal Theater hosts James Brown and Solomon Burke, two monuments of Soul music.
Backstage, everyone's under pressure.
But in 1960s America, both men know their music has unexpected powers.
Jean-Charles Mbotti Malolo shepherds this uniquely captivating story of musical rivalry amid social upheaval, by employing the kind of utterly unfiltered creative zeal required to match the music of the legendary figures at the centre of this film.
Depicting the coming together of two of the biggest voices in soul music in the 1960s, Mbotti Malolo, together with co-writers Nicolas Pleskof and Amaury Ovise, construct a tight narrative couched in one of the low points in Black America’s journey to freedom and self-determination. The year 1965 still lived under the shadow of the shooting of President Kennedy and saw the assassination of Malcom X. The film itself takes place in the aftermath of Sam Cooke’s death.
Opening with a black couple being harassed with impunity by a group of white men, the film immediately drives home the perceived powerlessness of a people. It also takes the time to show the quiet dignity and restrained passion of a people awaiting a for a revolution to begin, or rather, to be reminded that the revolution has not ended.
The story draws our focus to Solomon Burke, the preacher-cum-singer who is credited with shaping the sound of rhythm and blues and blending it with contemporary soul. We watch him observe the disenfranchisement of his people, with even him not even being spared, despite his success and status. We are given the impression that this king of a suppressed people is at a loss for a way of reigniting the spark of rebellion, a sentiment that becomes central to the conflict that develops over the course of the story.
Outside of the social commentary, the butting heads of Burke and James Brown is highlighted by the abstract meshing of form and colour Mbotti Malolo uses to send us on a magical mystery tour into the recesses of the minds of both of these powerful men. Everything from ego to fear to duplicitous intentions are reflected in some of the most intense imagery you can imagine. Multiple tsunami’s of colour accompany the formation and destruction of the worlds both men appear in. As previously alluded to, Mbotti Malolo having the music of two titans of soul at the centre of his film to contend with, had little option but to swing for the creative fence.
Avant Strangel and Lee Fields lean into their voice roles with aplomb as Burke and Brown respectively. Digging deep to channel the vast well of soul needed to portray these gargantuan figures at their most fiery, Strangel and Fields hold our ear as the Mbotti Malolo and his team of animators arrest us with nigh-on hypnotic visuals.
This film has incredible amounts of energy and commands its ebb and flow with an impressively deft touch. Using a stunning level of creative flair, Make It Soul gives the viewer a snapshot into a key moment in the struggle for black pride and the dawn of a new day in the long march towards rediscovering both the spiritual and political power of soul.
Studio: Kazak Productions | Year: 2018 | Genre: Period Drama/Musical/Animation | Duration: 15 Mins | Suitability: Mature
Lee Fields, Avant Strangel, China Moses, Akil Wingate
Director: Jean-Charles Mbotti Malolo | Producers: Amaury Ovise, Jean-Christophe Reymond | Writers: Jean-Charles Mbotti Malolo, Nicolas Pleskof, Amaury Ovise
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