BB KING: THE LIFE OF RILEY (Jon Brewer). 123 minutes. Some subtitles. Friday (June 14), 6:45 pm.
NXNE FILM FESTIVAL tonight (Thursday, June 13) through Sunday (June 16) at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (504 Bloor West) and various other locations. NXNE wristband, NXNE Film wristband, NXNE Priority Pass or $10 per screening. nxne.com/film. Rating: NNNN
The only downside of BB King: The Life Of Riley is that there's not nearly enough music.
Jon Brewer's exhaustive profile of the legendary blues guitarist (born Riley B. King, which explains the title) takes the Ken Burns approach, painstakingly establishing its subject's background and the social context in which King became famous, then proceeding to justify and investigate that fame with testimonials from such admirers as Rufus Thomas, Leon Russell, John Mayall and Morgan Freeman, who also narrates.
True to its title, The Life Of Riley really does tell King's entire life story, starting with the details of his birth (seriously) and tracing his long journey to beloved blues icon honoured by musicians and statesmen.
At two hours, it risks playing more like a cultural history than a biography. But if you're a fan, all the backstory - much of it provided by BB himself in decades of interviews - just makes things more interesting.