The gospel music movie “Rejoice and Shout” has been a hit for Greenport’s own film archive and documentary production house, and next Thursday North Forkers will have an opportunity to see the film on the big screen for free.
The August 25 screening at the Greenport Village Cinema, jointly sponsored by the movie house and the Floyd Memorial Library, will begin at 6 p.m.. Gospel artist Russell Smith and his singing group will perform and producer Joe Lauro will discuss the film.
Mr. Lauro’s company, Historic Films, located on Third Street in Greenport, has made several films about music history. Mr. Lauro has long been a fan of gospel music, but didn’t think he could fund a film on the subject until three years ago when he and director Don McGlynn visited his distributor, Magnolia Pictures, to pitch a film about punk rock innovator Iggy Pop.
They were in the office of Magnolia Pictures president Eamonn Bowles, a North Fork resident who’s supported previous Historic Films projects, when they realized they’d found a kindred spirit.
After they pitched the Iggy Pop idea, Mr. Bowles suggested a film about gospel music, said Mr. Lauro.
“I was trying to do a gospel film for years and people didn’t get it,” he said. “They didn’t understand how important it was. We had pretty much given up trying to get it funded. He got it. He completely understood where we were going.”
And so producer and director drew from their archives and material from the “Gospel Time” syndicated television show which ran on city stations between 1960 and 1966, and from the Jubilee Showcase, a Chicago TV show that ran from 1964 to 1985. They contacted the son of Jubilee Showcase’s producer to gain access to the footage.
They also drew on material that Alan Lomax shot at the Newport Folk Festival, from the Ed Sullivan Show and from newsreels and home movies featuring influential gospel artists such as Mahalia Jackson, the Rev. James Cleveland, The Staples Singers, The Blind Boys of Alabama and other gospel legends.
“These are names that mean very little to Caucasian people,” said Mr. Lauro. “If you could imagine that 40 years after The Beatles arrived in America, there had never been film about them, that’s the significance a lot of these people had in that spiritual world.
There has never been anything like this. It’s a cornerstone work that people will hopefully come back to.
“I’m an observer,” he continued. “As a documentarian, I’m a guy looking in, but I’m certainly a fan. It moves me more than any music that I know of. It’s out of my reality, growing up as Italian-American Catholic. It’s very different from the church I went to, but the message is the same.”
East End Arts in Riverhead will also screen the film on Sept. 24 as part of the 25th anniversary celebration of its annual Harvest Gospel Concert. That event will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a dinner at Dark Horse restaurant in Riverhead. The screening will follow at 7:30 p.m. at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall.
Advance tickets are $25 for the screening only and $75 for dinner and the film.