Film Review: ‘Mavis!’ Is a Heart-Warming Portrait of the Soul Legend

Mavis Staples
<p>Sympathetic characters are often what turn good music documentaries into great ones, yet few hit the level of congeniality that director Jessica Edwards captures in her heart-warming portrait of soul legend <a href="/artist/310133/mavis-staples/chart">Mavis Staples</a>. <em>Mavis!</em> follows a welcome trend --most notably in <em>Searching for Sugar Man</em> and <em>20 Feet From Stardom</em> -- of music docs in which the appeal of personality and story supersede fame. Among a collection of stand-out biographies that premiered at South by Southwest, <em>Mavis!</em> was the feel-good star, a story of survival, family, change and adapting to it.</p><p align="center"><a href="" target="_blank">Mavis Staples Talks Collabing With Wilco's Jeff Tweedy On New Album</a></p><p><em>Mavis!</em> embraces the singer's history -- back to the early 1950s when she started in Chicago churches with her father Pops and siblings in <a href="/artist/419186/staple-singers/chart">The Staple Singers</a> -- and connects it to her place in music today. Edwards rightfully aims to present the 75-year-old in the pantheon of greats, one whose journey started long before The Staples Singers' secular soul hits in the '70s. Performance footage -- gospel clips in black and white, '70s TV shows, a recent Newport Folk Festival gig -- points to the singularity of Staples' vocal power and interpretive skill.</p><p align="center"><a href="" target="_blank">Mavis Staples' 75th Birthday to Be Honored With Special Chicago Concert</a></p><p>In the last several years, Staples' career has been boosted through her work with <a href="/artist/431344/wilco/chart">Wilco</a>'s Jeff Tweedy, and the film lovingly shows how he has created a surrogate musical family for Staples, one that allows her to create with a level of comfort similar to the one she enjoyed with her late father. There is no villain in <em>Mavis!</em> -- only hope and thankfulness that glow from start to finish.</p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="" target="_blank">the April 4th issue of Billboard</a>.</em></p>