Berlinale: Programme

Film File


Say Amen, Somebody

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Gospel is the DNA of pop. Hedonistic paeans to sex, drugs and bling or gritty social commentary in soul, R&B house and hip hop are delivered with ear-pleasing, emotion-laden vocals, honed through years of disciplined practice in African American Protestant church choirs. Say Amen, Somebody, first released in 1982 as gospel enjoyed a boom, pays tribute to two of gospel's driving forces. Thomas A. Dorsey played the blues in the 1930s, then chose to spread the "good news“ of gospel, as a prolific composer, songbook publisher and concert organizer. Willie Mae Ford Smith was both gospel's diva and earth mother. As a singer and preacher – arousing debate even within her own family about equality in the church and women having careers at all – Smith advanced gospel through her own skills and by nurturing new talent.
The interviews, often evolving into exchanges among family members or co-workers, are conducted in dynamic settings that capture much of the surrounding circumstances and context- gospel as a medium of faith coming to terms with changes in society. Sociological "thick description“ through film (and plenty of singing) and a gold standard of observational music documentary.

George T. Nierenberg

USA 1982


Documentary form
101’ · Colour


Thomas A. Dorsey
Willie Mae Ford Smith
Sallie Martin
Delois Barrett Campbell
Zella Jackson Price
Edward O'Neal
Edgar O'Neal
Reverend Frank W. Campbell
Billie Greenbey
Rodessa Porter


George T. Nierenberg
Ed Lachman
Paul Barnes
Sound Design
Danny Michael
John Hampton
George T. Nierenberg
Digital Restoration
Milestone Film & Video
Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Academy Film Archive


George T. Nierenberg

Born on Long Island, New York, USA in 1952. He studied Film and Art at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, USA, and directed his first film, The Hollow, in 1975.


1975 The Hollow; 64 min. 1979 No Maps on My Taps; 60 min. 1982 Say Amen, Somebody; 100 min. 1983 Moment of Crisis; 30 min. 1985 About Tap; 30 min. 1988 That Rhythm… Those Blues; 60 min. 1992 Neon Lights; 20 min. 1995 Gotta Dance!; two parts, 30 min. each 2000 Head of the Class: The Lion King; 60 min. 2005 Bill Withers Just as I Am; 20 min.

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2019

Produced by

GTN Pictures,

World Sales

Milestone Film & Video