Rev. Jesse Jackson
This legendary documentary paints an incredibly revealing portrait of Black America just seven years after the violent Watts riots. The film focuses on the Watts Summer Festival's concert at the L.A. Coliseum in August, 1972. Performances from Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas, The Bar-Kays, and a host of others, are intercut with interviews with the hysterical Richard Pryor, as well as THE LOVE BOAT'S Ted Lange. WATTSTAX is, quite simply, an electric, enlightening, and unforgettable cultural time capsule.
Originally released in 1973, WATTSTAX is a musical and cultural artifact that pays tribute to the Watts riots, which ravaged Los Angeles for six days beginning August 11, 1965. The film's main focus is the Watts Summer Festival's 1972 concert held at the Los Angeles Coliseum, featuring performances by Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, The Staple Singers, The Bar-Kays, Luther Ingram, and a host of other soul singers. Concert footage is intercut with interviews of African-Americans, who discuss the state of black America in the early 1970s, as well as the effects the riots had on Los Angeles and America at large. Mel Stuart, most famous for helming 1971's WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, maintains an objective point-of-view, allowing the film's subjects to reveal insights as the concert unfolds throughout the course of a long day. Highlights include the unforgettable performance of Rufus Thomas, and Richard Pryor, whose tireless energy keeps the film crew in hysterics throughout his interview. WATTSTAX is a documentary that works on a variety of levels--entertaining, enlightening, engaging--in order to paint a portrait of the black race at a crucial time in American history.
WATTSTAX was originally released theatrically in 1973. Re-released theatrically by Columbia Pictures on May 5, 2000. The film was not available on video before the theatrical re-release, making it a hot property for bootleggers and soul music fans alike.
"This is more than just a concert film; it's a retrospective commemoration of the 1965 Watts riots, punctuated by a gut-busting Richard Pryor, just beginning his tenure as the funniest man alive."