Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Night James Brown Saved Boston (Director's Cut) at FilmfestDC

The Night James Brown Saved Boston, directed by David Leaf (74 min), showed this weekend at Filmfest DC. The film will appear on DVD in August 2008 from Shout! Factory, and was produced with the help of WGBH in Boston. That raises the question about a possible PBS showing later. There was a shorter PBS event before, and the DVD will contain most of the April 5m 1968 Boston Garden concert tape. The festival showing was a "Director's Cut."

Now, for a note about the history. African American rock musician David Brown put on the historic concert that night to divert Boston’s residents away from possible violence the night after the Rev. Martin Luther King was assassinated. The City agreed reluctantly to pay him – enough – and to use the Boston Garden downtown. The city was afraid that rioting would disrupt swank businesses downtown, but was not concerned about possible destruction in the predominantly black Roxbury.

The film contains a lot of somewhat fuzzy black-and-white footage of the rock concert (“Baby baby ,,,”) with rather tinny mono sound. There is plenty of archival footage of the rioting in other cities like Chicago and Detroit, and most of all, Washington, which had more smoke from fires in the air at any time in modern history until 9/11. In Washington, the riot torn areas along upper 14th St and Cardozo have been gentrified rebuilt with expensive condominiums; the GLBT Reel Affirmations film festival is held largely at the Lincoln Theater in the area each fall. Guard and Reserve troops were called up to maintain order and almost martial law. Even in Basic Training, recruits were told they were on “red alert” to participate in urban “shows of force.” I recall, because I was told that.

The film also relives some other history, such as LBJ’s March 31 announcement that he would not run again.

Related: this link.

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