Robert Mugge X 3

Several months ago, The Sager Group published my new memoir, Notes from the Road: A Filmmaker’s Journey through American Music, in which I explore the making of my 25 key music documentaries. Certainly, I’ve produced other nonfiction films as well, but I’ve made the most waves releasing such music-related docs as Deep Blues, Gospel According to Al Green, Saxophone Colossus with Sonny Rollins, New Orleans Music in Exile, Last of the Mississippi Jukes, The Kingdom of Zydeco, and others mining assorted genres of traditional American music.

Now, of course, I’m indebted to Illyse Singer, the talented cinema curator at Roxy Cinema, who is celebrating the release of my book by screening three of my earliest and most enduringly popular films: Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise (1980), Black Wax with Gil Scott Heron (1982), and Cool Runnings: The Reggae Movie (1983). I endorse these choices, because I made the three films in succession, and because they connect in interesting ways. Here’s how.

In 1978, I shot much of Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise as a labor of love (meaning, largely without money), but couldn’t find funds to finish it until 1980. A year after that, when I presented the film at the 1981 London Film Festival, I met Andy Park of Britain’s forthcoming Channel 4 Television, who had just purchased broadcast rights for the Sun Ra film and told me that, if somebody could make a film about Gil Scott-Heron, he would “pay for the whole thing!” That led to my making Black Wax, my 1982 portrait of Gil, which was another exciting collaboration. Then, in 1983, as Andy and I were trying to convince Al Green to let me make a film about his transition from soul singer to gospel preacher, Gil was invited to perform at the Reggae Sunsplash festival in Jamaica. To my surprise, Gil and his manager suggested to the promoters that they have me make a film about the event, which I did, and which resulted in my 1983 film Cool Runnings (using that title years before Disney’s Olympic bobsleigh film did the same). Even though the latter project was as financially challenging as any I’ve made, which has limited its distribution, the reggae film, too, turned out wonderfully, and I’m fortunate to have a well-worn, but beautiful, 35mm print I can share with you in recognition of the film’s 40th anniversary.

Still, as much as I love sharing my films, this year, my primary goal is to share my new memoir. So, not only will I be present to introduce each of these New York City screenings, and to discuss the films opening night with esteemed music journalist Anthony DeCurtis, but my wife and production partner, Diana Zelman, and I will be camped out in the lobby each night, selling and signing copies of my book (also signing any copies you’ve purchased elsewhere, of course). In short, this three-day party begins at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 10, and we hope to see you there.

Never fear! Air conditioning will be provided!

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