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Marlon Johnson is a six-time Emmy award-winning producer and director with many years of experience in the film and television industry. A native of Miami, Marlon co-produced and directed the documentary Coconut Grove: A Sense of Place, which examined race-based gentrification in the West Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami; directed the 2006 short documentary Breaking the Silence, which explored the rising rate of HIV infection in the Black-American south; and co-directed the Emmy award-winning short documentary Sunday’s Best (2009).
While the soulful sounds of Detroit and Memphis are celebrated worldwide thanks to influential labels like Motown and Stax, the 1960s and 1970s saw explosions of soul and funk scenes throughout the country. Deep City mixes wonderful music and archival footage with new interviews as it documents the songwriters, performers, and entrepreneurs behind a vibrant Miami record label that should’ve been huge.
Willie Clarke and Johnny Pearsall launched Deep City Records out of Pearsall’s record store, which became not just a mecca for music fans, but also a meeting place and impromptu audition spot for aspiring talent. Deep City shines light on some future stars who came through these doors, notably diva Betty Wright and complex figure Clarence Reid, known for earnest material under his own name and outlandish raunch under his “Blowfly” moniker. But the spotlight here lands equally on label-mates every bit as talented, particularly Helene Smith, the shy singer behind some simply stunning singles now considered “Northern soul” classics.
This is a story of Miami, but it could just as easily be the story of Baltimore, or any American city during the golden years of soul music: the strong personalities and drive it takes to get a record label off the ground; the rich stew of influences that distinguish a regional sound; and the shifting friendships and collaborations that can keep creative projects alive, or pull them in competing directions. (Eric Allen Hatch)
Screening with THE HIGH FIVE - Directed by Michael Jacobs (10 mins)
The origin of the seemingly most instinctual of celebratory gestures can be traced to a spontaneous moment between Los Angeles Dodgers Dusty Baker and Glenn Burke on October 2nd, 1977.