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From the stage to the street, Wattstax brilliantly captures a musical moment -- and a poignantly passionate response to painful social upheaval. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

In 1972 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, director Mel Stuart captures the performances of the Watts Summer Festival. Organized by Stax Records, the festival is a gathering of musicians and entertainers from the black community, brought together to remember the Watts Riots from seven years prior. Key performances include those of comedian Richard Pryor, and singers Isaac Hayes and Luther Ingram. Stuart also presents shots of the Watts streets and community along with the festival footage.

Cast & Crew

James Alexander
Jesse Jackson
Albert King
Ted Lange
Little Milton
Al Bell
Executive Producer
David L. Wolper
Executive Producer
John A. Alonzo
Cinematographer
Larry Clark
Cinematographer
Robert Marks
Cinematographer
José Louis Mignone
Cinematographer
David Myers
Cinematographer
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Critic Reviews for Wattstax

All Critics (40) | Top Critics (24) | Fresh (36) | Rotten (4)

  • All [the performers] draw lively reactions from the crowd who get to chant, "I am somebody." And isn't that all what we want to be?

    December 18, 2020 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • It is a fine documentary in that it does, better than any popular music film with the possible exception of Woodstock, document a group of people, their music, how it came to be, and why they like it.

    December 18, 2020 | Full Review…
  • This is a fragmented, skittery film that does not have enough moments of interest and hilarity to offset the stretches of boredom.

    December 18, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Simply as a means of recording the fruition of hope among a centuries-maligned minority Wattstax can stand proud.

    December 18, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Just when you figure that the film industry has exhausted every possible avenue of exploration in the quest to present still another music festival documentary, along comes something with a nice, fresh twist. Such is the case with Wattstax.

    December 18, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Once In a while, a muslc-oriented film can transcend the ordinary and become a chronicle of a social mood instead of an on-film record of a concert. It was that way with Monterey Pop and Woodstock; it Is that way with WATTSTAX.

    December 18, 2020 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Wattstax

  • Oct 17, 2008
    This is some of the best footage you'll ever see of Rufus Thomas doing the Chicken Strut in a hot pink leisure suit. f'in amazing performances by some of the most influential soul artists of the early 70s. And hilarious yet pithy dialog and narration by Richard Pryor gives the documentary the proper historical context it deserves.
    Ping C Super Reviewer
  • Sep 04, 2008
    Released in 1973,the classic documentary masterpiece was the Woodstock of Stax. Directed by Mel Stuart(of Willa Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)this was a grand event which the climatic concert of the seventh annual Watts Summer Festival that was held at the Los Angeles Coliseum before an estimated crowd of 70,000 in the summer of 1972. This was also commemorating the 1965 Watts riots that engulf South Central Los Angeles. If you want to experience the Memphis sound that was Stax Records then you're in for a treat. Especially for those who saw this masterpiece concert film when it was in theatres in 1973. You have some of the biggest stars from Stax to perform on one awesome incredible show. You have some of the biggest stars ever former Motown great Kim Weston(who sings the black national anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing")to some of the great performers ever to come out of Stax Records... You have on one incredible show "The Emotions","The Staple Singers", "The Soul Children", "The Dramatics", "Johnnie Taylor", "Carla Thomas", "The Bar-Kays", "Luther Ingram",and featuring acts from Rufus Thomas(doing the Funky Chicken in front huge crowd of folks),and the incredible Issac Hayes(in gold chains attire singing some of his greatest hits). Also onboard this too was some of the social commentary of the times with everyday people talking about the struggles of the streets not to mention seeing the Rev. Jesse Jackson at his prime,and the classic comedy stylings of the legendary Richard Pryor. A Must See for those who love classic black cinema.
    Mister C Super Reviewer

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