Mavis! The Joyful Life of a Gospel Legend.

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Women’s History Month is taking place throughout March with multiple events happening at UWE. As part of the celebrations, third-year BA Film Studies students are providing a series of weekly film reviews. The first in the series is Mavis! which documents the life of civil rights icon and blues singer, Mavis Staples, reviewed by Aoife Ranyell.

Shot from Mavis! Dir. Jessica Edwards. Dogwoof, 2015. [Description: A woman is standing on a stage looking at the crowd singing into a microphone. She has both arms in the air and is smiling.]

There is no better way to begin Women’s History Month than by showcasing a true power icon and legend of women’s music history. Directed by Jessica Edwards, Mavis! is a feel-good documentary focussing on the life and talent of the woman in question: rhythm, blues and gospel singer, lead vocalist in her family band The Staple Singers, inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and verbal civil rights activist, Mavis Staples.

Taking a chronological, first-person approach to retelling Mavis’s life and story, the 80-minute runtime tightly packs in decades’ worth of music and history: from her roots in church gospel singing, through her connection with Dr Martin Luther King, to where we can find her now. She is still performing and making her incredible soulful music, and at the point of release, Mavis had been touring for 60 years – she’s not your ordinary 82-year-old. Mavis’s warming, animated personality radiates through the screen and it’s very difficult not to be completely enamoured with her. Edwards intersperses charismatic interviews with footage from Mavis’s bellowing live performances (that will undoubtedly give you goosebumps), backstage recording sessions, and snippets of her private life – including a fleeting romance with a young Bob Dylan, and her electric friendship with the one-and-only Prince.

This confident documentary truly highlights the innate joy, passion and hope that Mavis generates in everyone she meets, and it’s no surprise that by the end of the film you are left feeling her good nature and powerful energy within you. As she says herself:

“I’m just doing what I’ve always done. Just trying to bring love and music to the people.”

Mavis Staples

And she certainly does that.

Further Viewing:

You can access the full list of events happening for Women’s History Month via the UWE Website.

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