The history of New York City’s Apollo Theater in Harlem is given the full treatment.
User Reviews: "The Apollo" (2019 release; 102 min.) is a documentary about the legendary theater in Harlem. As the movie opens, we are watching a modern performance piece (we later learn it’s the live performance of "Between the World and Me"). We then go back to the theater’s beginning as the "Apollo" in 1934, located at Harlem’s ground zero on 125th Street. Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington performed there that year. "It’s a model of black achievement", comments one of the documentary’s many talking heads. At this point we are 10 min. into the film.
Couple of comments: this is the latest documentary from the Oscar-winning director Roger Ross Williams. Here he brings us the rich history and significance of the Apollo. The movie is remarkably split (almost 50-50) between the emphasis on the music/dance/performance (in the first half) and the civil rights and political significance (in the second half). Among the music’s highlights is of course the (in)famous Amateur Night. Incredibly, we see footage of Lauryn Hill (yes, THE Lauryn Hill), then age 13, being booed off the stage by the crowd (Hill’s singing was indeed completely out of tune). Surreal. In the second half, in addition to the political significance, the film makers also look at how the Apollo stays relevant in today’s society and what its role is/should be ("new works from the African-American community"}, which leads us back to "Between the World and Me". Bottom line: this is a delightful and insightful documentary about one of the iconic landmarks in New York.
"The Apollo" premiered this week on HBO and is now available on VOD. If you have any interest in knowing more about the rich history and significance of the Apollo, I’d readily suggest you check this out, and draw your own conclusion.