Sing Your Song
Directed by Susanne Rostock
Day, me say day-o... Sing Your Song narrates the remarkable life of Harlem-born singer Harry Belafonte. Moving beyond music history, Susanne Rostock's directorial debut is a documentary about the American civil rights movement, celebrity activism, and the changing American consciousness, told through the biography of an American artist who, as he says, used "the power of art as an instrument of resistance and rebellion."
The film opens up with an onslaught of charged imagery—footage of genocide, race riots, gang violence, poverty, war—and Harry Belafonte begins speaking out, in color and much older now than the b&w icon best known for "The Banana Boat Song."
"It was never my intention, to become a singer," the older Belafonte admits early on. Before he began singing, Harry Belafonte was taking acting classes with Marlon Brando, Sydney Poitier, and Tony Curtis (then still Bernie Schwartz). After becoming a commercial music success, Belafonte moved to Hollywood and became a controversial figure in American cinema and popular culture due to his white leading ladies, on-screen and off.
It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who enlisted Belafonte into becoming a facilitator of change in America, using his financial success and celebrity clout to bring a voice the civil rights movement. In 1985 many of us were still being born when every radio disc jockey on the world played "We are the World." The song was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and produced by Quincy Jones, yet it was Belafonte who orchestrated the collaboration, seeing the project through all the way to the gutted 747 that flew into Ethiopia with pallets of food and medicine.
Beyond mobilizing famous friends, Harry Belafonte was moving into the realm of policymakers and activists, fundraising, and serving often in the role of ambassador. Not just an American celebrity who could sing and act, he was confidante to Nelson Mendela, Eleanor Roosevelt, John and Bobby Kennedy, the SNCC, and Bill Clinton. Powerfully told, Sing Your Song is a moving and insightful portrait of Harry Belafonte as a of a human rights activist who's still fighting towards social change.
Opens January 13 at IFC Center