Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hot Docs - Finding The Funk [2013, Dir. Nelson George, USA]

  Finding The Funk

Directed by Nelson George (better known perhaps for his 2007 directorial debut entitled Life Support starring Queen Latifah for which she won a Golden Globe for), Finding The Funk is a fine effort overall. Neither complete nor comprehensive in its scope, it's somewhat like an introductory college course serving to give a general understanding of the evolution of funk and to touch on some of the major progenitors of the genre. Dutifully narrated by The Roots' drummer ?uestlove, the documentary explores the evolution of funk from it's jazz and rhythm and blues roots pre-1960 primarily from New Orleans, to the funk movement in the 80's that developed out of the basements in of all places Dayton, Ohio and to funk's unexpected revitalization in the hip hop genre.  The documentary also puts great focus on the influence of major players like James Brown, Sly and The Family Stone, Parliament / Funkadelic, Earth Wind and Fire and Ohio Players. ?uestlove's narration is augmented by an array of talking heads segments from some of funk's major figures like James Brown, George Clinton, and Sly Stone themselves, as well as various other participants like neo-soul vocalist D'Angelo and Mike D of Beastie Boys, the latter who provides some of the most insightful thoughts on funk's far-reaching influence, most notably later on in hip-hop(eg. sampling, 'the funky drummer' rhythm).  Other elements utilized during the documentary were pop-up style text information tidbits dubbed "funk chunks" giving additional information to the viewer as well as narrator ?uestlove's drum-school type demonstrations of the variety of funk rhythms that developed over the years.  What Finding The Funk succeeds in is that it was informative without being overly academic yet on another level it seemed to be a straight-laced, overly-serious exploration, lacking a sense of fun. I think also the film would have benefited from archival video footage but that's just my opinion. Those criticisms aside, Finding The Funk is essential viewing most definitely for the funk newbie who'd like to learn the basics but I suspect you'll have more fun listening to Sly and The Family Stone's "There's A Riot Goin' On".

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