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The Soul of a Man
(part four of 'The Blues')
2003

Written and directed by:
Wim Wenders

Photographed by:
Lisa Rinzler

Produced by:
Alex Gibney
Margaret Bodde

Line Producers:
Samson Mücke
Paul Marcus

Edited by:
Mathilde Bonnefoy

Narrated by:
Laurence Fishburne

Cast:
Blind Willie Johnson
CHRIS THOMAS KING
Skip James
KEITH B. BROWN
H.C. Speirs
.JAMES HUGHES
Art Laibley
DAVID HUGHES
Sound engineer
SHAYNE TINGLE
Secretary
JOY BRASHEARS


As themselves:
BECK
T-BONE BURNETT
NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS
EAGLE EYE CHERRY, VERNON REID, DAVID BARNES & JAMES "BLOOD" ULMER
SHEMEKIA COPELAND
ALVIN YOUNGBLOOD HART
GARLAND JEFFREYS
LOS LOBOS
BONNIE RAITT
LOU REED
MARC RIBOT
JON SPENCER AND THE BLUES EXPLOSION
LUCINDA WILLIAMS
CASSANDRA WILSON

STEVE & RONNOG SEABERG
DICK WATERMAN

SKIP JAMES
J.B. LENOIR

Production Executive:
In-Ah Lee

Production Design:
Liba Daniels

Format:
DV PAL and 35mm hand cranked camera
(HD Master then transferred to 35mm)

 

 

 

For a detailed list of credits - click here

For music credits and a list of all participating musicians - click here

 

 

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In "The Soul of A Man," director Wim Wenders looks at the dramatic tension in the blues between the sacred and the profane by exploring the music and lives of three of his favorite blues artists: Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson and J. B. Lenoir. Part history, part personal pilgrimage, the film tells the story of these lives in music through an extended fictional film sequence (recreations of '20s and '30s events - shot in silent-film, hand-crank style), rare archival footage, present-day documentary scenes and covers of their songs by contemporary musicians such as Shemekia Copeland, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Garland Jeffreys, Chris Thomas King, Cassandra Wilson, Nick Cave, Los Lobos, Eagle Eye Cherry, Vernon Reid, James "Blood" Ulmer, Lou Reed, Bonnie Raitt, Marc Ribot, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Lucinda Williams and T-Bone Burnett.

Says Wenders: "These songs meant the world to me. I felt there was more truth in them than in any book I had read about America, or in any movie I had ever seen. I've tried to describe, more like a poem than in a 'documentary,' what moved me so much in their songs and voices."

The documentary is the first in a seven-part series called "The Blues," which features films by Mike Figgis, Charles Burnett, Clint Eastwood, Marc Levin, Richard Pearce and Martin Scorsese (who also executive produced the series) and will air on TV in the U.S. this fall.

(Indie Wire; Cannes Film Festival site)

 

The Soul of a Man at the Cannes Film Festival

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"Wenders has filmed the Blues in The Soul of Man, a documentary movie with a personal touch with tunes and lyrics born of the 1930s Depression years along the Mississippi.

The rasping voice of Blind Willie Johnson, who earned his living on street corners and sang the title song, was sent into space on the Voyager in 1977 as part of the CD recording The Sounds of Earth, which had been placed onboard for posterity and/or examination by extra-terrestrial beings.

With the voice of Laurence Fishburne - Morpheus in the Matrix films - narrating, the film recounts the lives and times of the three using both old recordings and archive footage as well as fictional scenes and covers of their songs by contemporary musicians such as Nick Cave, Lou Reed and Beck.

Because there was no archive footage in existence of either Blind Willie Johnson or Skip James, Wenders used actors to play their roles but shot the scenes with an old 1920s black-and-white camera that lends realism, later using digital technology to fit the music to the pictures.

"I had to use old techniques but new technology," Wenders said at Cannes. "This would have been impossible in the past."

In the film, Wenders recounts that he first heard the name JB Lenoir when John Mayall in the late 1960s sang The death of JB Lenoir, a song that impacted a generation at the time.

"I wanted to know who this person was," Wenders said, who crossed oceans to find information on Lenoir.

Music has long been a mother of cinematic invention in Wenders' career. The title of his debut 1971 Summer In The City was from a hit by Lovin' Spoonful and The Million Dollar Hotel was inspired by Bono of U2."

(SAPA-AFP)

For more information on 'The Soul of a Man'
read the following NewsReel pages:

Feb 2004   The Landscape of the Blues  > click
Apr 2002   Passion for Blues and Filmmaking  > click
Mar 2002   Tapping the Roots   > click
Oct 2001   See: The Blues Project (incl. Quicktime clip)  > click

 

 

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