- Rated: R
- Closed captioning available
- Run Time: 2 hours, 24 minutes
- Video: Color
- Released: September 7, 2004
- Originally Released: 1973
- Label: Warner Home Video
- Encoding: Region 1 (USA & Canada)
- Packaging: Keep Case
- Special Edition
- Aspect Ratio: Letterbox - 1.85
- Aspect Ratio: Widescreen - 1.85
- Additional Release Material:
- Chuck D - Rapper, Activist, and Rob Bowman - Music Historian
- Cast and Crew
- Original 1973 Theatrical Trailer
- 2003 Special Edition Trailer
- Links to Websites (Including WATTSTAX Site)
Performers, Cast and Crew:
Rev. Jesse Jackson,
The Staple Singers,
The Dramatics &
Robert K. Lambert,
David Newhouse &
Jose Mignone &
Larry Shaw &
Rolling Stone - 09/30/2004
"[T]his 1972 concert a the Los Angeles Coliseum was arguably more remarkable than its hippie predecessor."
Film Comment - 09/30/2004
"It's a testament to the music, a mix of funk, gospel, and soul, that the prevailing mood is one of devotion, compassion, and hope, which Stuart captures in full."
Entertainment Weekly - 09/17/2004
"[Y]ou are getting a great concert film and a decent slice-of-African-American-life doc for the price of one."
USA Today - 09/17/2004
"This is more than just a concert film; it's a retrospective commemoration of the 1965 Watts riots, punctuated by a gut-busting Richard Pryor, just beginning his tenure as the funniest man alive."
Director Mel Stuart battled for years to get the clearance to release this film on video. Lucky for us, because even today, it is an incredibly moving portrait of a community coming together in the aftermath of the violent Watts riots. The emotion conveyed in the music and subjects of the film culminate in a revealing portrait of a strong African American community that resonates today.
The film centers on the Watts Summer Festival concert at the Los Angeles Coliseum in August, 1972. Unique performances from Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas, The Bar-Kays, and a host of others, are intercut with interviews with Watts's residents. Some of the residents are celebrities and future celebrities, such as Richard Pryor well before he became famous, and THE LOVE BOAT'S Ted Lange. The film captures not only the sound and sentiment of a community, but depicts a rare panorama of 1970s Los Angeles. WATTSTAX is an electric, enlightening, and unforgettable cultural time capsule.
Originally released in 1973, WATTSTAX is a musical and cultural artifact that pays tribute to the Watts riots, which ravaged Los Angeles for six days beginning August 11, 1965. The film's main focus is the Watts Summer Festival's 1972 concert held at the Los Angeles Coliseum, featuring performances by Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, The Staple Singers, The Bar-Kays, Luther Ingram, and a host of other soul singers. Concert footage is intercut with interviews of African-Americans, who discuss the state of black America in the early 1970s, as well as the effects the riots had on Los Angeles and America at large.
Mel Stuart, most famous for helming 1971's WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, maintains an objective point-of-view, allowing the film's subjects to reveal insights as the concert unfolds throughout the course of a long day. Highlights include the unforgettable performance of Rufus Thomas, and Richard Pryor, whose tireless energy keeps the film crew in hysterics throughout his interview. WATTSTAX is a documentary that works on a variety of levels--entertaining, enlightening, engaging--in order to paint a portrait of the black race at a crucial time in American history.
Essential Cinema |
Soul Music |
- WATTSTAX was originally released theatrically in 1973.
- Re-released theatrically by Columbia Pictures on May 5, 2000.
- The film was not available on video before the theatrical re-release, making it a hot property for bootleggers and soul music fans alike.