Say Amen, Somebody (1982)
“When I came up in gospel, we didn’t do concerts — we did revivals.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
While Peary wishes “the young filmmaker had had a veteran around to help him construct this film better — because the proper footage for a stronger film is there”, the film stands on its own as a uniquely structured ethnographic glimpse. It’s far from linear, but perhaps that’s not a necessity; what we see here is a milieu rather than a history per se (though historical information is woven throughout). Peary writes that “gospel music works when the singers transmit their emotions to their listeners (the church congregation)”, and then complains that “every time we really get into the swing of things and feel intoxicated by the music, Nierenberg pauses for a lot of behind-the-scenes chatter” — however, isn’t that precisely the point? Gospel singers — like all artists — have personal lives and beliefs that are impacted by (and shape) their art, and that’s very nicely highlighted here (particularly in reference to gender roles and expectations). On the other hand, Peary’s right that the film could perhaps have benefited from a bit more focus, simply to help us better understand some of these unique and interesting characters.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: