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Rejoice and Shout: Christian Movie Review


PG for some mild thematic material and incidental smoking.




June 3, 2011


Andrae Crouch, Smokey Robinson, Mavis Staples, Bill Carpenter, Marie Knight, Willa Ward


Don McGlynn


Magnolia Pictures


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Rejoice and Shout

Todd Jennings

Filmmaker Don McGlynn is known for his stirring documentaries that examine the influence and cultural significance of America's signature musical genres. His looks at jazz legends (Teddy Edwards, Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon) garnered him critical praise among independent movie fans for mixing deep first-person interviews and rare live performance footage to tell bigger stories. In his latest, Rejoice and Shout (Magnolia Pictures), which hits theaters in limited release June 3, McGlynn focuses his lens on the intersection of faith and the history of gospel music in the African-American church and American culture.

Unlike documentaries by historical filmmakers like Ken Burns—who rely on narrative structures and carefully scripted voiceovers—McGlynn lets the subjects tell the stories, and not just through monologues. His meticulously collected archived footage of Gospel music being preformed over the last 200 years speak more clearly than any words could.

Throughout the film, when artists and Gospel historians talk about Pentecostal revivals (from tent-meetings to the Azusa Street movement), overcoming social injustice, or devotion to God, the cutaways to live Gospel service don't just help you to understand Gospel music and the story, but to feel it.

McGlynn's encompassing look at Gospel music is at times unfocused as he shows the role it played African-American social challenges and achievements, American popular-culture, and western Christianity, but its dedication to the actual music keeps it grounded.

Though the film's structure—which floats from different themes, artist profiles and chronological events—is at first challenging to engage with, it doesn't take long for the viewer to get into the film's rhythm, that, like the music it explores, takes to time soak in deep spirituality.

The film's charm is its willingness to savor the deep catalog of live performances McGlynn took a decade to collect. The movie frequently cuts away to entire songs, often in grainy black-and-white film.

McGylnn was also able to draw an emotional sincerity out of his subjects, who don't just move the story along, but also speak to the spiritual power of Gospel music.

The interviews with music legend Smokey Robinson at the beginning of the film, are some of the most powerful. To hear an artist of Robinson's caliber talk so candidly about his personal relationship with God, the importance of church, and the power of Holy Spirit, help even causal Gospel music fans to realize the deeply personal and intimately spiritual soul of the songs.

Rejoice and Shout isn't a traditional documentary—it's a tent revival, history lesson, and cultural time capsule rolled into one. If you're interested in an inspiring look at the African-American church, an examination of a uniquely American musical genre, or just a powerful worship experience, Rejoice and Shout is a worthwhile viewing.

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