Sing Your Song
A thorough account of the life of Harry Belafonte that occasionally lapses into hagiography
This timely and thorough account of the extraordinary life of Harry Belafonte finds so much in its subject that it almost suffers by an over-abundance of material.
A matinee idol whose benign appeal to white audiences masked fierce political commitments, and whose mentor was the great singer and activist Paul Robeson, Belafonte used his celebrity to foreground the interests of the civil rights movement, and later to draw attention to other social causes.
Great use of archive footage ensures that Susanne Rostock’s film emphasises both his immense allure as a performer and the seriousness of his early political engagement. Things get rushed towards the end, as the film struggles to encompass all of Belafonte’s later achievements – the We are the World charity single! The relief effort in Haiti! The war on US gang culture! – and starts to err on the side of blind hagiography. But a portrait nonetheless emerges of a man of rare charisma, unflagging energy and staunch beliefs, whose legacy reminds us why Hollywood and activism needn’t necessarily be an embarrassing double act.
Selected release from Fri 8 June.