The Memphis-based Stax Records organized the Wattstax benefit concert to remember the 1965 Watts uprising that shook the predominantly Black Los Angeles neighborhood just seven years prior. In the summer of 1972, documentary producer David L. Wolper brought his crew to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to record the thrilling performances of gospel, soul, and funk artists such as The Staple Singers, The Bar-Kays, and Isaac Hayes, for an essential concert film celebrating the possibilities of liberation through music. Grounded by Jesse Jackson as the event’s MC, Wattstax is intercut with standup performances from Richard Pryor and crucial street-level conversations with Watts residents.

DIRECTED BY: Mel Stuart. WITH: The Dramatics, The Staple Singers, Kim Weston, Jimmy Jones. 1973. 103 min. USA. Color. English. Rated R. DCP.

Academy Museum film programming generously funded by the Richard Roth Foundation. 

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