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GUEST,John Pietaro Pete Seeger film/DVD: The Power of Song (28) Pete Seeger film 23 Oct 07


Jim Brown Productions has asked me to help spread the word on the new film called PETE SEEGER: THE POWER OF SONG. It opens this weekend at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village.

Most socially conscious people will recall the brilliant documentary by Jim Brown, 'The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time'; the director has called this one 'a sequel of sorts'. It is notable that the copy on the poster (attached) reads: 'Musician. Patriot. Activist. Environmentalist. Blacklisted.--Legend', and that it offers a real biography of Pete, including the pains brought on HUAC, with an accent on his music of social change. Was it by chance that a film about a figure like Pete Seeger or his old group The Weavers would be released in a decade of struggle against the right-wing, a period which finds us cringing under the full corporate weight of a George W Bush or a Ronald Reagan? When capitalism pulls apart its reigns and tramples rights, as we have lived with during any imperial presidency, we need a Jim Brown to remind us all of why we fight. And why we must continue to do so. This is a movie to attend as we plan on the next demo, peace vigil, radical political meeting or...presidential election. But its also one to take our kids to. It will inspire and incite---the way it should.

'Pete Seeger: The Power of Song' will premier in Manhattan this weekend but will also be selectively shown in various cities (including Pleasantville NY on 11/3) before coming to the small screen via PBS in February. Please go to for more info on this brilliant film about one of our greatest Cultural Workers and national treasures.

Below is some info from the press release.

In Solidarity,
John Pietaro-
Jim Brown Productions
T: 212.505.0138
F: 212.505.5594

Roger Ebert's review:

Pete Seeger: The Power of Song

**** Stars

September 13, 2007

Cast & Credits
Featuring Pete Seeger, Toshi Seeger, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen,
Natalie Maines, Tom Paxton, David Dunaway, Bess Lomax Hawes, Joan
Baez, Ronnie Gilbert, Jerry Silverman, Henry Foner, Eric Weissberg,
Arlo Guthrie, Peter Yarrow, Mary Travers, Julian Bond, Tommy Smothers
and Bonnie Raitt.

The Weinstein Company presents a documentary directed by Jim Brown.
Running time: 93 minutes. No MPAA rating (suitable for all ages).
Opening today at Landmark Renaissance.


I don't know if Pete Seeger believes in saints, but I believe he is
one. He's the one in the front as they go marching in. "Pete Seeger:
The Power of Song" is a tribute to the legendary singer and composer
who thought music could be a force for good, and proved it by writing
songs that have actually helped shape our times ("If I Had a Hammer"
and "Turn, Turn, Turn") and popularizing "We Shall Overcome"
and Woody
Guthrie's unofficial national anthem, "This Land Is Your Land." Over
his long career (he is 88), he has toured tirelessly with song and
stories, never happier than when he gets everyone in the audience to
sing along.

This documentary, directed by Jim Brown, is a sequel of sorts to
Brown's wonderful "The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time" (1982), which
centered on the farewell Carnegie Hall concert of the singing group
Seeger was long associated with. The Weavers had many big hits circa
1950 ("Goodnight Irene," "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine") before
blacklisted during the McCarthy years; called before the House
Un-American Activities Committee and asked to name members of the
Communist Party, Seeger evoked, not the fifth, but the First
Amendment. The Weavers immediately disappeared from the playlists of
most radio stations, and Seeger did not appear on television for 17
years, until the Smothers Brothers broke the boycott.

But he kept singing, invented a new kind of banjo, did more for the
rebirth of that instrument than anyone else, co-founded two folk-song
magazines, and with Toshi, his wife of 62 years, did more and sooner
than most to live a "green" lifestyle, just because it was his nature.
On rural land in upstate New York, they lived for years in a log cabin
he built himself, and we see him still chopping firewood and working
on the land. "I like to say I'm more conservative than Goldwater,"
Wikipedia quotes him. "He just wanted to turn the clock back to when
there was no income tax. I want to turn the clock back to when people
lived in small villages and took care of each other."

With access to remarkable archival footage, old TV shows, home movies
and the family photo album, Brown weaves together the story of the
Seegers with testimony by admirers who represent his influence and
legacy: Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Natalie Maines of the Dixie
Chicks, Tom Paxton, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Peter Yarrow, Mary
Travers, Julian Bond and Bonnie Raitt. There is also coverage of the
whole Seeger family musical tradition, including brother Mike and
sister Peggy.

This isn't simply an assembly of historical materials and talking
heads (however eloquent), but a vibrant musical film as well, and
Brown has remastered the music so that we feel the real excitement of
Seeger walking into a room and starting a sing-along. Unique among
musicians, he doesn't covet the spotlight but actually insists on the
audience joining in; he seems more choir director than soloist.

You could see that in 2004 at the Toronto Film Festival, in the
"final" farewell performance of the Weavers, as he was joined onstage
by original group members Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman, who go
back 57 years together, and more recent members Erik Darling and Eric
Weissberg. Missing from the original group was the late Lee Hays, who
co-wrote "If I Had a Hammer."

The occasion was the showing of an interim Brown doc, "Isn't This a
Time," a documentary about a Carnegie Hall "farewell concert" concert
in honor of Harold Leventhal's 50th anniversary as an impresario. It
was Leventhal who booked the Weavers into Carnegie Hall for the first
time in the late 1940s, and Leventhal who brought them back to the
hall when the group's left-wing politics had made them victims of the
show-business blacklist. Although Seeger has sung infrequently in
recent years, claiming his voice is "gone," he was in fine form that
night in Toronto, his head as always held high and thrown back, as if
focused in the future.

Sadly, for many people, Seeger is still associated in memory with the
Communist Party USA. Although never a "card-carrying member," he was
and is adamantly left-wing; he broke with the party in 1950,
disillusioned with Stalinism, and as recently as this year, according
to Wikipedia, apologized to a historian: "I think you're right. I
should have asked to see the gulags when I was in the USSR."

What I feel from Seeger and his music is a deep-seated, instinctive
decency, a sense of fair play, a democratic impulse reflected by
singing along as a metaphor. I get the same feeling from Toshi, who
co-produced this film and has co-produced her husband's life. How many
women would sign on with a folk singer who planned to build them a
cabin to live in? The portrait of their long marriage, their children
and grandchildren, is one of the most inspiring elements in the film.
They actually live as if this land was made for you and me.

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