Critic’s Choice: ‘Say Amen, Somebody’ sings the praises of gospel music

Zella Jackson Price in the documentary "Say Amen, Somebody."
(Vincent Mollica / Milestone Films)

What has been a very good year for the live performance of gospel music on film is about to get better. First came the release of “Amazing Grace,” the record of a legendary 1972 Aretha Franklin gospel performance, and now comes the re-release of the joyous 1982 documentary, “Say Amen, Somebody.”

Directed by George T. Nierenberg, “Say Amen” mixes emotionally powerful performance footage by some renowned gospel names and cinema vérité footage of the singers in their off-stage lives.

Heard and seen are legends such as Thomas A. Dorsey, often considered the creator of gospel and responsible for classics like “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” and the formidable singer Willie Mae Ford Smith. Another generation, represented by the Barrett sisters, the O’Neal twins and Zella Jackson Price are also heard to excellent effect.


'Say Amen, Somebody'

Rated: G

Running time: 41 minutes

Playing: Starts Sept. 20, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; also 7:30 p.m., Sept. 23, and 1 p.m. Sept. 24, Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles; Laemmle Town Center, Encino; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Laemmle Claremont