Tension is the glue that holds many a film together, and the new documentary Rock The Bells just might have you squirming in you seat worrying about a character itís hard to feel sorry for.
That would be Chang Weisberg, a young concert promoter who is literally betting the house that he can reunite Hip Hop legends The Wu-Tang Clan for the epic finale of a daylong music festival in San Bernadino, California. Concert promotion is an ulcerous enough business, but a Wu-Tang reunion is akin to nuclear fusion: it sounds great but with so many unstable elements nobody believes you can pull it off. Weisberg is nobly determined but equally self-serving and as a member of the San Bernadino police department observes, willing to say anything to assure anyone who might thwart him. So perhaps we are not surprised when his security team fails to secure the grounds, his ticket counter manned by his mother and aunts is awash in loose bills, and a thousand hormonal fans are left standing in line for hours in 103 degree heat.
And oh yeah, he just found out the key link in his Wu-Tang Clan reunion canít be roused out of his crack coma.
Chang Weisberg has earned himself a riot. And to the credit of filmmakers Casey Suchan and Denis Henry Hennelly, what happens next never feels preordained. While most of us have been wise enough to avoid hip-hop concert promotion, those were indeed sympathetic beads of sweat forming on my palms as disaster loomed over Weisbergís moment of truth.
Suchan and Hennelly brought a lot of cameras and followed a lot of people, allowing the viewer to know more of whatís going on than any of the principals involved, a tried and true tension-getting device in scripted drama and a nifty piece of editing in this generally gimmick-free documentary.
And lest we forget what itís all about, the filmmakers allow an extended performance clip of supporting act MC Supernatural as he wanders into the crowd, asks people to hold up any object, and turns the random and mundane into an exuberant, wildly clever and utterly seamless blast of freestyle rhyme. Itís good we have that feelgood moment because the filmmakers ó for reasons unclear ó decline to show us what the shouting is all about. In what is a celebration of hip-hop and a near breathless reverence of the Wu-Tang Clan, we never see what happens when the legends finally take the stage. We just get a title card telling us the Clan played for two hours. And they leave us with Chang Weisberg having breakfast at Dennyís. Thatís the story of Rock The Bells. And theyíre sticking to it.
© 2007 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 5/23/07
Rock The Bells
U.S. - 2006