Josh Olson's Day 2 at SXSW: Behold the awe and might of THUNDER SOUL!
Published at: March 14, 2010, 1:40 a.m. CST by headgeek
Hey folks, Harry here! Now, here's Josh Olson's day two of SXSW - I really hate I missed THUNDER SOUL this morning. Literally everyone that I've spoken to has gone gaga for it. Here's Josh...
Still getting my sea legs. Only saw four films today. I would have seen five if the secret midnight show hadn’t turned out to be a movie that’s screening at least three other times this week and that I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in seeing.
Of the four, I’m only gonna really tell you about one because of the three I liked, one was a documentary that was a surprise, and that we’re not supposed to talk about, and the other is the new Jean-Pierre Jeunet film, Micmacs. Micmacs will be getting a good release in the States in a few months, and I’m sure Harry will tell you all about it here shortly. I’ll just say this - if Jeunet is your cup of tea, you won’t be dissatisfied. Personally, I think he’s one of the two or three best filmmakers alive. I loved it. It’s been too long in between films, and we need this man to keep working.
But I DO want to tell you about the documentary I saw this morning - it’s called Thunder Soul, its director is a guy named Mark Landsman, and I have a sneaking suspicion this thing is going to go all the way. If it doesn’t make it to the Oscars, the documentary committee of the Academy is a joke.
Thunder Soul is about the Kashmere Stage Band, the band from the inner city Kashmere High School in Houston, TX. In the early Seventies, the band was led by a teacher named Conrad Johnson, whom all the students called “Prof.”
It’s an understatement to say that Prof was one hell of a teacher.
He turned a mediocre high school jazz band into a genuinely great funk band that ended up touring the world and releasing several albums. It’s an astonishing film, telling the story of the band’s heyday, and how many of the original members re-united in 2008 to play a show at their old school. 12 hours later, I’m still moved and shaken by the film. It shows us simply and effectively how Prof took this little school band that nobody paid any attention to to heights nobody could possibly have anticipated. The film is full of moving testimonies from his students who talk convincingly about how Prof changed their lives and helped them find meaning, purpose and pride. The footage and music from the Seventies is just great, and the footage of the reunion rehearsals and the show - not to mention the scenes with Prof himself - will just floor you. I still can’t conceive of a high school band being this good.
I caught it at the Paramount, and it was packed, and man, did this thing play. The audience was loving it, shouting out, and applauding and, at several points, crying. It’s one hell of an emotional journey, and stands as a beautiful testament to the power of music and of education. When Prof talks about people who would do away with music programs in high school, it’s a rallying cry for anyone who cares about the future.
And oh, my God, the music. This movie just pumps and pulses with the best Seventies funk. I’ve always had a weakness for horn sections. I’ve said for years that if I could just have my own horn section following me around everywhere, I’d be the king of the world. Well, now I know which horn section I want. Damn, these kids were great, and they can still kick it today, even though some of them hadn’t picked up their instruments in more than thirty years. This is one of those rare, beautiful movies that takes you everywhere you want it to. You’ll cheer, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and most importantly, you’ll want to dance. No idea when this thing will be hitting theaters, but look for it. Easily one of the best movies I’m going to see this year.