Gospel According to Al Green

The story of R&B singer Al Green, who gave up a successful singing career to become a gospel minister.
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Director: Robert Mugge

Presented by: Robert Mugge

Starring: Al Green, Willie Mitchell, Ken Tucker

 

1984, USA, UK, 94 minutes, Digital

Language: English

Filmmaker Q&A: Robert Mugge

Early in his film-making career, Bob Mugge (pronounced “muggy”) was writing screenplays and scrambling to raise money to turn those scripts into feature films. In his spare time, he was making fun little music films. He came to notice that his feature films never got funded, but those “little music films” always did, so he turned his attentions to documenting many of the greatest artists of the 20th century and beyond.

Today, the Chicago native who grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland is teaching at Ball State University, where since 2009 he has filled the Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball Chair in Telecommunications.

Mugge’s 30-plus films feature a variety of music and non-music subjects. He has made works on bluegrass, jazz, gospel reggae and most frequently the blues. Black Wax. Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise. The Return of Ruben Blades. Gospel According to Al Green. All Jams on Deck. Saxophone Colossus. Lookin’ for Trouble. Last of the Mississippi Jukes. Hellhounds on My Trail: The Afterlife of Robert Johnson are but a few of the many wonderful music films Mugge has gifted us over the years.

They have earned him high praise from publications including The Village Voice and The New York Times, with Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter writing “Mugge has, during the past 25 years, established himself as the cinema’s foremost music documentarian …”

Program Notes

This indelible portrait of soul-music-sensation-turned-gospel-singer Al Green, catches up with the legendary musician in the early 80s, during the 7th anniversary of the Memphis Pentecostal Church he established and where he serves as reverend. The film, commissioned by Britain’s Channel 4, sits down with a serene and at times ecstatic Green, who has found a renewed sense of self in gospel music. He details the traumatic events that turned him away from a lucrative career as one of soul music’s most popular performers and toward his conversion to full-time gospel—leading both the ministry and the music for his Memphis-based congregation.

 

Director Robert Mugge—widely considered one of the all-time great music documentarians—crafts a beautiful and moving portrait of this music titan and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Mugge skillfully interweaves the many revelatory moments from his intimate talk with Reverend Al, with soul-stirring gospel performances, and interviews with close associate Willie Mitchell—who produced all of Green’s early hits for the fabled Hi Records—and pop culture critic Ken Tucker. Mitchell and Tucker offer background and context for the life and career of Green up to this point, while outlining the connections between soul and gospel music.

 

Inspiring, deeply moving, and frequently euphoric Gospel According to Al Green is a miracle of a film. We’re so proud to have the opportunity to celebrate the film’s 35th anniversary and its incredible director at MdFF 2019, as we share the magic of Reverend Al’s gospel with you. (Scott Braid)


OFFICIAL SELECTION

Sundance Film Festival
Maryland Film Festival

Critics' Praise

“Green’s ‘performance’ as a pastor… reaches literally ecstatic heights; it’s a pentecostal religious seizure set to thumping funk music. You’ll probably never see a more powerful vocal spectacle; it’s James Brown times ten. This is an amazing movie, packed with astonishing music. It’s also a riveting exploration of the psychology of pop ambition.” David Chute, The Los Angeles Herald Examiner


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The Maryland Film Festival takes place in and around the SNF Parkway Theatre at 5 W. North Avenue (at the intersection of North Avenue and Charles St.) in Baltimore's Station North Arts and Entertainment District.
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