After 42 years and three locations, WLOK's annual Stone Soul Picnic has settled into Overton Park and is steadily evolving into a Stone Soul weekend. In addition to Saturday's picnic and a musical lineup featuring 24 gospel artists performing onstage at the newly renovated Levitt Shell, WLOK has partnered with the Brooks Museum to create the WLOK/Brooks Museum Black Film Festival.
The inaugural festival is modest in scope, showcasing two comedies, a concert film, and a stone cold classic. The first WLOK/Brooks Museum Black Film Festival kicks off Friday, September 2nd at 3 p.m. with a screening of Spike Lee's 1988 musical comedy School Daze. The social satire stars Larry Fishburne as "Dap" Dunlap, a politically active student at a traditionally black college, and Lee as Dap's diminutive cousin "Half-Pint," a Gamma Phi Gamma Pledge. School Daze is followed by an even more musical offering: Wattstax. In 1972 Memphis' Stax records took its whole roster of recording artists to L.A. to play a day-long benefit concert at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Performers included Rufus and Carla Thomas, Isaac Hayes, the Staples Singers, and many more. The resulting film is one of the all-time great concert documentaries.
Saturday's film offerings are Life and Imitation of Life. The first is a 1999 dramedy set in the 1930s. It stars Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence as a pair of New Yorkers who find themselves working hard labor in a Mississippi prison. The festival concludes with Imitation of Life, Douglas Sirk's romantic drama about mothers, daughters, and many shades of inequality. Though dismissed by critics as common melodrama during its original theatrical release, Imitation of Life's treatment of American life in the 1950s earned it a second look and a place in the National Film Registry as a work of cultural and historical importance.