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Isn't This a Time! A Tribute Concert for Harold Levental

  • Film

Time Out says

MEET THE FOLKIES It's hootenanny time for Arlo Guthrie, left, Pete Seeger, right, and Seeger's grandson, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger.

It's easy to poke fun at the crunchy-granola earnestness of folk music and its hard-core followers: Jim Brown's Wasn't That a Time!, which documented a historic 1981 Carnegie Hall reunion concert by folk pioneers the Weavers, inspired the brilliant mockumentary A Mighty Wind. But while time has taken its toll on the musicians in Brown's new doc, built around a 2003 tribute to folk producer-manager-booster Harold Leventhal (who died earlier this year), their voices and spirits remain clear and strong. And while you may think protest standards like "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" should be retired to the nostalgia zone, Mary Travers of Peter, Paul & Mary disagrees: As long as there's a good fight to be fought, she contends, the old chestnuts will resonate with new righteousness.

The film's heart is the concert, whose highlights include "Wimoweh," "Guantanamera" and the crowd-pleasing "Have You Been to Jail for Justice?" Brown intercuts the performances with interviews in which the artists reminisce about the past and worry about the future. Weaver Ronnie Gilbert may look like a cuddly granny, but when she declares that these are bad times for American idealism, you're hearing from someone who knows from bad times. She and the other Weavers were blacklisted during the McCarthy era—and you can be sure they'll go to their graves singing out against the world's wrongs. (Opens Fri; Quad.)
Maitland McDonagh

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