Say Amen, Somebody is one of the most acclaimed music documentaries of all time and a moving, funny, and deeply emotional ode to gospel music that Roger Ebert called “one of the most joyful movies I’ve ever seen.” Featuring the father of gospel, Thomas A. Dorsey; its matron, Willie Mae Ford Smith; and earth-shaking performances by the Barrett Sisters and the O’Neal Twins, the film is a uniquely uplifting experience made with the same soulfulness and passion as the music it celebrates.
Directed by George T. Nierenberg, the film focuses on two of gospel music’s pioneers, “Mother” Willie Mae Ford Smith, one of gospel’s first soloists, and “Professor” Thomas A. Dorsey, hailed as the Father of Gospel Music. Building up to a St. Louis tribute to Mother Smith and to an annual Gospel Convention in Houston, the film explores the early days of Gospel, its development, the real challenges that faced its founders — particularly the women — and the humanity of those who felt compelled to answer a calling to spread the gospel through this powerful, soul-grabbing, transcendent and utterly joyful musical form. The featured singers deliver absolutely luminous performances in this film that can’t help but leave the viewer moved and downright uplifted.
Say Amen, Somebody is presented as part of Rituals of Devotion, and extends the exhibition’s themes of faith and loving communal gatherings.