DOC SHOT Q&A: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Director/Producer: 'Soul Power'

Editor's Note: Opening this Friday, July 10, is Jeffrey Levy-Hinte's Soul Power. Here's a Doc Shot that Tamara Krinsky conducted with the filmmaker during the film's screening at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival.

The DOC SHOT Q&A is an exclusive online feature by Documentary
magazine associate editor Tamara Krinsky. Through this mix of questions
(some serious, some sassy) each DOC SHOT provides a glimpse into the work and
lives of those creating and supporting nonfiction film.

Jeffrey Levy-Hinte
Director/Producer-Soul Power


YOUR FILM

Brief description of your film:
Soul Power is a vérité documentary
about a legendary music festival (dubbed "Zaire '74"), and it depicts the
experiences and performances of such musical luminaries as James Brown, BB
King, Bill Withers, Celia Cruz, among a host of others. The concert has
achieved mythological significance as the definitive Africa(n)-American
musical event of the 20th Century, and Soul
Power
portrays the event in all of its cinematic glory.

Your
role/credit on the film.
Director and producer.

How did
you find your subject or become involved in the film?

Thirteen
years ago I was an editor on When We Were
Kings
, and since that time I have been fixated on the notion of making a film
of Zaire '74, which was left on the cutting-room floor when we made Kings. Two and half years ago, I took
the leap of faith to make this film, and Soul
Power
is the result of my efforts.

Was
there a moment in this film that went a different way than you expected?

I
didn't foresee the diversity of opinions that greeted my initial cut of the
film-from bewilderment and harsh criticism to high praise and encouragement. Ultimately
I learned a great deal from those who took exception to aspects of the film,
and I am confident that I was able to make a better film for it.

If you
had had an extra $10,000 to spend on your film, what would you have used it
for?

The
film is finished and I am not left wanting. Ultimately I would put the money
toward a 35mm output of the film, for though it looks great on HD, it was shot on
16mm film and we did a 2K intermediate, so I feel that presenting Soul Power on film would give it a
slightly more authentic and organic feeling that I would personally like to
see.

What
excites you about playing your film at the Toronto International Film Festival?

I
love the idea of premiering the film before a real audience of moviegoers. Many
of our top festivals are so industry-saturated that the whole nature of the
audience is distorted.

If
you've had time to check out the TIFF catalogue, is there a particular film (aside from yours) or event at the
Festival that you're looking forward to attending?

The
TIFF curators rarely disappoint, so in truth I would like to see most all the
films. If I was to choose a single film it would be Richard Parry's Blood Trail, as I find the topic
fascinating, and knowing the vagaries of distribution I might not otherwise
have the opportunity to see it.

 

 

YOUR WORK

What's
the first film you remember seeing as a child?

I
recall seeing Cabaret broadcast on
network television when I was quite young. Of course, I could be remembering a TV
commercial or otherwise imagining the whole thing, but whatever happened it
left a powerful impression on me, and Cabaret
is still a film that I greatly admire.

Tell us
about a film that affected you profoundly or changed/inspired the way you do
your own work.

It is
impossible for me to answer this question as posed. I can say that Stanley
Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa and Frederick Wiseman are my cinematic heroes, but even
this list feels grossly restricted.

What
would surprise people the most about your job or the way you execute it?

How
tedious, boring and frustrating filmmaking can be. Of course there are
wonderful high points, but they are still small islands in a sea of adversity
and disappointment. But alas, filmmaking is a habit that is hard to kick!

When
you are feeling creatively stumped or burnt out, what do you do to get the
creativity flowing again?

Photography
is my savior, and I am fortunate to live in New York City, where there is no end to the
picturesque people, places and things.

YOUR LIFE

Daily
essential read (online or off)?

New York Times, offline version.

What's
on your TIVO (digital video recorder) or iPod right now?

TIVO:
portions of the Olympics and the DNC. I recorded them so that I could fly
through the commercials, but I don't plan on watching them again. But I would
like to say: OBAMA 2008!
iPOD: Mahler symphonies, and an odd assortment of
music that I don't listen to.

What do
you want more of in your life?

Peace,
love and understanding (for me and everybody else).

What do
you want less of in your life?

Violence,
intolerance, suffering (for me and everybody else).

If you
could add an extra hour to every day, how would you spend it?

Reading.

What do
you want for your birthday?

A train
set.