Because of the very simple nature of the human voice, and what its sound means to us, music captures the human experience in a special way that other art forms cannot. If joy is nearly impossible to contrive, then listening to the joyous, excited and unblinkingly forthright celebration and expression of community, faith and gratitude to simply be alive can be a profoundly moving experience, one impractical to resist. Such are the life lessons communicated by Don McGlynn’s Rejoice and Shout, an exhaustively comprehensive documentary about the 200-year musical history of African-American Christianity.
Gospel music is of course informed by the plantation and slavery experience of African-Americans many generations ago, and McGlynn — a filmmaker well-versed in musical documentaries — connects that historical fact to the unbowed spirit of its earliest practitioners and progenitors, while also tracing it all the way forward in time to the emotional, participatory qualities of worship still found in many predominantly African-American churches. Using a wide-ranging roster of interview subjects, from academics like The Gospel Sound author Anthony Heilbut to singers like Ira Tucker, Smokey Robinson, Mavis Staples (above) and more, McGlynn crafts a genre-specific portrait that may be among the most detailed in all of music-related nonfiction film. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Magnolia, unrated, 115 minutes)