Like a banquet where all who've looked up to Pete Seeger come to celebrate the man who reintroduced America to its folk music heritage, this film is filled with toasts to his spirit and testimonials to his influence. And because political activism was, for Seeger, an inseparable part of teaching the people's music, to watch his story is to watch the shifting of American culture. From the ascendancy of labor unions after the Depression to World War II, from the HUAC investigations to the civil rights movement, from the embrace of folk traditions by '60s counterculture to the Vietnam War protests and even the beginning rumblings of environmental consciousness—Seeger played a part in all of it. Tracing Seeger's career through festival footage, newsreels, and newspaper clips, director Jim Brown packs the film with Seeger's performances. His fingers flying over his banjo, his chin lifted in earnest purity, Seeger leads four-part harmonies and audience sing-alongs through 50 years of single-minded dedication to uniting people through song. There is a one-note aspect to the film's relentless lighting of Seeger in a saintly glow, but that's somewhat mitigated by a comment from executive producer (and wife) Toshi Seeger, which the old man repeats with a laugh: "She says if only I chased women the way I chase causes, she'd have an excuse to leave me."
Edina Cinema, starts Friday