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Isn't This a Time: A Tribute to Harold Leventhal (Unrated)

Release Date: December 9th, 2005 (NYC-Quad Cinema) by Seventh Art.
Directed by Jim Brown.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about the reunion of famous folk singers who pay tribute to their producer Harold Leventhal in a November 2003 concert at Carnegie Hall.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Whether you like folk music or not, this documentary will not bore you with too much concert footage or interviews. Rather, there’s a fine balance between the two that makes it very engaging. The musicians include Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, the Weavers, Peter, Paul and Mary, Ronnie Gilbert, Theodore Bikel, and Leon Bibb. The last time they sang at a concert together was back in 1955 with Harold Leventhal as their financial supporter. That was back when the Weavers were blacklisted for suspicion of communism—their songs were too liberal and rebellious. All of them are well into their prime now, but still have energy, charisma, and plenty of vocal talent. The highlights include “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “Goodnight Irene” and “Wimoweh”. Director Jim Brown allows you to get to know all of the musicians with direct, warm interviews even with some footage of Harold Leventhal, who recently died in October. It’s also worth noting that Isn’t This a Time! is shot in crisp, smooth 35mm without the typical grainy handheld camera look of many musical documentaries.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: There’s something very uplifting about watching the Carnegie Hall audience smile, clap, and even shed a tear when as they hear the lovely folk music. If you listen to the words carefully, they actually mean something profoundly touching. For example it turns out that, “Wimoweh” translates as “the lion will come”, which was a chant once used in Africa to rebel against the Apartheid. In other words, freedom and justice will come one day. Freedom of speech is also an interesting issue that was a big problem 50 years ago. In an interview, Leventhal wisely admits that there are still moments when freedom of speech is limited even today.



THE BOTTOM LINE: Highly entertaining and surprisingly moving! If A Mighty Wind didn’t help you become a fan of folk music,Isn’t This a Time! will do the trick!

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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