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Sing Your Song

Harry Belafonte Sing Your Song

Sing Your Song

*****

(2011)  Documentary /S2BN Films

Cast: Harry Belafonte (himself), Leadbelly (himself), Sidney Poitier (himself), Fran Scott  Attaway (himself), Marge Champion  (herself).  Running time:105 minutes. Director: Susan Rostock. 

“Sing Your Song” is produced by Harry Belafonte’s youngest daughter, Gina, a stupendous documentary on the living African American legend, Harry Belafonte at age 84.  “Sing Your Song” is one of those overdue documentaries for which one can breathe a sigh of relief that the subject of the documentary is still living.

The handsome, yellow-toned Mr.Belafonte as the years of the civil rights movement rolls on would meet such giants as the actor-orator-activist -singer Paul Robeson, actor Sidney Poitier, singer-actor Sammy Davis Jr., actress Shelly Winters and singer-Afro-centric woman Nina Simone.

Belafonte is considered the “King of Calypso” after performing as a night club singer to raise money for acting classes.  He first appears on stage backed by the Charlie Parker band, such members as Miles Davis, Max Roach and Charlie Parker himself.

Belafonte’s speak the word “so-to-speak” deems him to be blacklisted during the Joseph McCarthy era.  He bails Martin Luther King out of the Birmingham City jail and raised thousands of dollars to get others released.  Belafonte becomes King’s friend and confidant until King’s death in 1968.  Through the 1950s and 1960s, Belafonte finances civil rights groups, Freedom Rides in the 1960s as well as registration drives.  Almost always under cloud of grave danger, Belafonte risks being killed or seriously injured by white segregationists in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.

Belafonte narrates some of his itinerary from his early years with the American Negro Theater (closed in 1949) in the 1940s to his mission to bring food to starving people in Ethiopia in the 1980s to joining campaigns to end apartheid and fight HIV/AIDS in South Africa in 2001.

Belafonte never stops criticizing U.S. foreign policy over which he clashes often with government officials or conservative talking heads.  His public opposition to the Cuban embargo by the U.S. and the U.S. invasion of Grenada and throwing accolades to Fidel Castro are against the grain of many Americans.  For all it’s worth, he’s a hero and a living example of a true humanitarian.  The sad part is far too many Americans know little or nothing about Belafonte.

Besides Belafonte’s decades long activism, the documentary highlights some of his acute acting ability in films such as “Bright Road”(1953), “Carmen Jones” (1954), “Island in the Sun” (1957), “Odds Against Tomorrow”(1959), “The World, the Flesh and the Devil” (1959), “White Man’s Burden” (1995), “Kansas City” (1996) and “Bobby” (2006), and a few more.

In 1968, on NBC television, Petula Clark invited Harry Belafonte on her show during which her hand touched his in turn causes Plymouth Motors to threaten to remove the show until Clark vows to resign if the show is cancelled.  Whites and Blacks at the time are not suppose to interact in any romantic fashion, especially if the man is Black and the woman is Caucasian.

“Sing Your Song” must be a palladium in American history as well as in film history and not be cast into a pococurante heap. There I’d say “Sing Your Song” is a real treat to see and a great subject for deliberation.

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