MAVIS! (Jessica Edwards). 80 minutes. Opens Friday, November 13. See listings. Rating: NNNN
Where to watch: iTunes
This doc is pretty much flat-out hagiography, but you can see why director Jessica Edwards couldn’t help herself. Gifted singer Mavis Staples, who has been a force for peace and racial harmony since she began singing with the Staple Singers at age nine, is irresistibly charismatic.
Edwards pays close attention to Staples’s early years, when she was mentored by her father and band leader, Roebuck Staples – himself a groundbreaking blender of blues and gospel who marched with Martin Luther King – and was singing with an astonishingly mature tone in the Staple Singers.
When the family outfit stopped performing, she embarked on a solo career, while making sure to keep her sister as a backup singer. Her stint as a solo artist was rocky at first, but she did go on to win a Grammy and then, recently, to collaborate with Jeff Tweedy.
Following the iconic performer on stage and off, we get close a relentlessly positive human being.
But despite its rah-rah tone, the doc has moments of heartbreaking emotion, especially scenes with Levon Helm just before he died and others just after the death of Staples’s father.
Don’t miss our Q&A with director Jessica Edwards here.