Let Fury Have the Hour: Tribeca Review

Antonino D'Ambrosio
"Let Fury Have the Hour"
Feel-good doc gathers great interviews but isn't sure what they add up to

NEW YORK — Cheerleading for a couple of generations of artists who've viewed their output as a struggle against right-wing politics, Antonino D'Ambrosio's Let Fury Have the Hour is stuffed with "right on!" moments and attractive image-making. But its fuzzy focus limits the breadth of its appeal -- while it's easy to imagine groups of Occupy activists hosting well-received screenings, the doc will be a harder sell in the broader nonfiction arena.

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An outgrowth of D'Ambrosio's book of the same title, the film compiles interviews with scores of musicians, artists, writers and so on who fit his definition of "creative response." Somewhat confusingly, while the book centered on The Clash's Joe Strummer, the film lets him loom large in the background -- an inspiration for many of its subjects whose own career is barely discussed.

Instead we have a quick-cutting chain of interviews with everyone from Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat to environmentalist Van Jones. Almost all say interesting things that right-minded people will agree with, but it's often unclear what the movie's trying to make of it all. The film's editing and its heavy employment of (sometimes manipulated) stock footage give the impression of continuously building to big points that never quite solidify.

Had the film stuck to The Clash and its contemporaries, its strong use of Reagan and Thatcher as counterpoint -- ideologues setting a societal agenda creative people must counter -- would make sense. But D'Ambrosio's younger subjects, like Gogol Bordello's Eugene Hütz and the Fela Kuti-inspired Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, didn't start their careers until the end of the Clinton era (and Fela Kuti himself hit his political-funk prime long before the '80s).

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Perhaps all the artists here would agree that their individual takes on political art trace back to the Reagan/Thatcher phenomenon. That seems unlikely. Failing that, it's hard to understand what D'Ambrosio sees in this varied group that makes them different from, say, Sixties folkies who also envisioned a new way of living through art.

Individual reference points here -- the anyone-can-do-it punk scene, the no-gallery-required world of street art -- make clear how a specific creative current empowered people. But the notion that all these varied creative bursts constitute a single cultural movement is more implied than asserted, much less argued convincingly.

All this is not to say the film lacks engaging ideas. When a skateboarder speaks of how his hobby caused him to literally see the world differently, when a scientist discusses how great art can teach us to live with ambiguity, one can imagine other, differently focused films that might have sprung from this material. But then we careen into an invigorating sequence connecting dots between Public Enemy and punk and community activism, and we decide we wish the movie would settle on this instead.

Venue: Tribeca Film Festival, Spotlight
Production Company: La Lutta NMC, Bricklayers Union
Director-Screenwriter: Antonino D'Ambrosio
Producers: Antonino D'Ambrosio, James Reid
Executive producers: Mark Urman, Rob McKay, Chaz Zelus, Jonathan Gray
Directors of photography: Karim Lopez, James Reid, Antonino D'Ambrosio
Music: Wayne Kramer
Editor: Karim Lopez
Sales: Mark Urman, Paladin Film
No rating, 96 minutes