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REVIEWS Sing Your Song REVIEWED BY FIONNUALA HALLIGAN


An intriguing — and welcome — surprise, Sing Your Song chronicles the life and times of 83-year- old Harry Belafonte. Any idea of calling him an entertainer, crooner or even actor has been firmly banished by Susanne Rostock’s film, however, which demonstrates that Belafonte’s lasting and quite extraordinary legacy is as an impassioned and committed political and social activist — on a global scale. Footage, often very moving, tracks Belafonte


through seemingly all the major political upheav- als of the 20th century alongside icons such as Marlon Brando, Martin Luther King, the Kennedy brothers and Nelson Mandela, and on to the fight against poverty, discrimination and famine, wher- ever he sees it. An easy fit in any TV or festival’s schedule, this is an accomplished documentary which leaves many unanswered questions — but in a pleasingly provocative way. Sing Your Song can also be frustratingly vague,


for example: on dates (the chronology is not always clear), major personal events (two divorces slither by without much in the way of introspec- tion) and settings (early jumps from Harlem to Jamaica to the Second World War and a stint as a munitions loader are disorientating). Neverthe- less, it is clear Belafonte’s mission is greater than the details of such things, and the film follows suit. Interviews with Belafonte’s children during


BERLINALE SPECIAL


US. 2010. 100mins Director Susanne Rostock Production companies S2BN Entertainment, Belafonte Entertainment International sales K5 International, www. k5international.com Producers Michael Cohl, Gina Belafonte, Jim Brown, William Eigen, Julius R Nasso Cinematography Bobby Shepard, Peter Pilafian, Jim Brown Editor Susanne Rostock, Jason L Pollard Music Hahn Rowe


which his son talks about the struggle to compete with the “family of man” for his father’s attention, are telling. Belafonte’s mother was an immigrant from


Jamaica who found employment as a domestic servant in New York. Abandoned by their father, Harry and his brother were sent back to Jamaica to stay with family while his mother worked. What- ever seared the young man with his sense of social justice, he does not say, but by the time young adult Belafonte — working as a janitor’s assistant — first saw a performance by the American Negro Theater in Harlem, he knew it was the only road to take to make his voice heard. As an up-and-coming performer, Belafonte


toured what was then a segregated South in a racially mixed group of performers. Performing his first stint in Las Vegas, he was not allowed into the hotel through the front door. Blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee, his goal was to fight “unrelenting racist oppression” wher- ever he saw it… and he has never let up. The trou- sers were tight and the calypso croons soothing, but Belafonte wanted nothing less than to change the world, and he has never stopped trying. Belafonte’s life makes an extraordinary screen


story, and, with a light hand and some strong tech- nical support, Rostock relates it well, confident in the power of her protagonist. It is an ease that serves her and her subject well.


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