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Movie Review: Charles Bradley: Soul of America

May 31, 2013

Charles Bradley Soul of America PosterCharles Bradley: Soul of America – A KinoSmith Release

Release Date: May 31st, 2013 @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Rated PG for mild language and mature themes

Running time: 74 minutes

Poull Brien (dir.)

Charles Bradley (music)

Charles Bradley as Himself

Elizabeth “Mother” Bradley as Herself

Thomas Brenneck as Himself

Neal Sugarman as Himself

Sharon Jones as Herself

Charles Bradley

©KinoSmith.  All Rights Reserved.

Charles Bradley performs to a sold out crowd at his album release show in Brooklyn in Charles Bradley: Soul of America.

Our reviews below:


Charles Bradley: Soul of America Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Some people genuinely deserve the success they receive, and the title subject of the excellent documentary Charles Bradley: Soul of America is absolutely one of them.  Charles Bradley has lived a hard life in the Brooklyn Housing Projects, pushing forward with his dream of being a soul singer by performing as a James Brown impersonator, before finally releasing a successful album of original songs at the age of 62.  We genuinely want him to succeed as the film counts down the days until the release of his acclaimed debut, and watching his rise to fame makes for an experience that is emotional in all of the best ways.

Through interviews with the title subject and those closest to him in his life, director Poull Brien delivers a film that is by turns heartbreaking and incredibly inspirational, with a powerful story about how anyone can rise up from the bottom to follow their dreams.  Charles Bradley appears emotionally open in front of the camera, relaying stories of his hardest moments and lowest points, while seeming genuinely excited about his current success.  The moments when he talks about his dark depression just makes his rise to fame all the more satisfying, and will hit home for anyone who has ever struggled.

With exceptional music from the genuinely likeable and immensely talented subject at its heart, Charles Bradley: Soul of America is an excellent piece of documentary filmmaking, with an emotionally powerful story that is both humbling and incredibly inspiring.


Charles Bradley: Soul of America Review by Erin V.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Inspired by a show in 1962, Charles Bradley later became a James Brown impersonator which he did for many years, bringing his love of R&B and soul music across the country.  But then after decades of this, he finally got the opportunity to branch out and do his own music after being signed by Daptone Records.

The documentary follows Charles as he counts down the days to his first album release, ‘No Time for Dreaming’ in 2011.  At 62 years of age, it is a later start than most artists have, but better late than never.  Living in poverty most of his life, he is now two years later touring the world to promote his new album release ‘Victim of Love.’

The genuine quality and emotion he puts into his music is what draws you into listening to it.  His story is fascinating and it was great to have an introduction to his music through this film.  I’ll be listening for more, and after seeing the film I hope other people feel the same way.


Charles Bradley: Soul of America Review by Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

Charles Bradley: Soul of America tells the inspiring story of one man who overcame the odds and became a soul artist at the age of 62.  The documentary shows us the harsh, poverty related conditions Charles Bradley lives and grew up in.  He was homeless as a teen, often sleeping on subway trains to stay out of the cold.  His brother got robbed and murdered as an adult in a random incident, which added tragedy to Charles Bradley’s already hard life.

All this might cause some people to give up, and Charles Bradley almost did just that.  But music, love of family, and a faith in God kept him alive and determined to turn his life around.  He began as a James Brown impersonator, but later developed his own style and became an artist all to himself.  Charles Bradley’s hard life has made his music genuine, heartfelt, and full of passion.

What makes Charles Bradley so inspirational is that he doesn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself.  He spends much of his time taking care of his elderly mother, a sweet, and caring lady who always sees the best in people.  She is a big part of Charles Bradley’s life, and is certainly one of his influences.

Charles Bradley’s family at home consists of a friendly parrot, a constant companion who brightens up his day.  Finding joy in the small things is what allows him to move forward in life.  Charles Bradley’s attitude and soulful music make this documentary worth seeing.


Charles Bradley: Soul of America Review by Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

Dreams can come true at any age.  The inspiring documentary Charles Bradley: Soul of America proves it.  Director Poull Brien tells the late in life success story of funk and soul singer Charles Bradley who cut his debut album, “No Time for Dreaming” with Daptone Records in 2011 at the age of 62.  Until that point, he was living in poverty in the Brooklyn projects making occasional money impersonating singer James Brown at local clubs.  An opportune encounter with Daptone Records producer Gabriel Roth and musician Tommy Brenneck sent Bradley on the path to recording his own material.

It turns out that Charles Bradley has solid talent as a performer and is a soulful songwriter.  The documentary showcases his talent, but more importantly shows a man who despite a hard life of poverty and periods of homelessness has a sense of hope and faith that his time will come for his light to shine.  The scenes where Charles is proudly showing people in his neighbourhood a newspaper article about his new success are sincere and touching.  Also touching are the many scenes with his elderly mother as he tries to care for her.

Charles Bradley: Soul of America is a wonderfully entertaining and touching film.  For those who had never heard of this talented singer, it serves as an introduction to his work and an inspiration.  A quick check online found his debut album and his newest release, “Victim of Love” available locally.  Fans of funk and soul music will want to check out Charles Bradley: Soul of America.


Charles Bradley: Soul of America Review by Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

At the age of 62, Charles Bradley was barely getting by, living by turns with his parrot in a Brooklyn project and in the basement of the 87 year old mother he supports. A cook by day, he had spent nights as a James Brown tribute artist for nearly fifty years. Now he has decided to draw on his difficult life experiences with his own songs. The Brooklyn funk label Daptone was happy to support him with an LP album and as the opening act on the tour of headliner Sharon Jones, all backed up by their house band.

The documentary follows Charles through the recording session and weeks of touring leading up to the album’s release. Through his own accounts and those of friends and family members, we learn about his difficult life but can not fail to be impressed by his charm and positive outlook spreading out to all around him. The musical performances in the studio and on stage are also impressive, richly deserving the warm audience reaction they receive everywhere.


Consensus: Directed by Poull Brien, the wonderful documentary Charles Bradley: Soul of America follows the title soul singer on his much deserved rise to success, with a story that is both emotionally powerful and incredibly inspirational.  ***1/2 (Out of 4)

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