Robert Mugge

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Music Films and Documentaries

Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise

Now on Blu-ray and DVD from MVD Visual

SUN RA: A JOYFUL NOISE
(1980)

"The prevalence of documentaries about musicians is a curse, because most of these films do a terrible job of showcasing music. One rare exception is the work of the director Robert Mugge, whose film ’Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise’...is one of the most satisfying portraits I’ve ever seen. An extraordinary documentary. Revelatory."
-  Richard Brody, The New Yorker

"Trying to cover all there is to say about this most flamboyantly unique artist is a daunting task, especially in an hour, but Robert Mugge's A Joyful Noise does a darned good job. More personal portrait than actual comprehensive musical documentary, it presents a good range of Ra's many musical moods"
-  Michael Shore, Music Video: A Consumer Guide

2008 SUN RA: A JOYFUL NOISE named one of the 50 Greatest Music Films Ever by Time Out London.
   
2014 Lavelle Porter discusses Sun Ra and SUN RA:  A JOYFUL NOISE on the 100th anniversary of Sun Ra’s birth (May 22, 2014). http://lavelleporter.com/tag/robert-mugge/
   
2015

"The flashy costumes and wild music made the Sun Ra Arkestra a natural for film, and while there are several documentaries (and one very strange feature film) about Ra and his organization, no filmmaker captured the essence of the group as well as Robert Mugge in his 1980 film, “A Joyful Noise”, newly released in a splendid restoration by MVD Visual."
-  Thomas Cunniffe, Jazz History Online

   
Sun Ra Front Cover Sun Ra Back Cover
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An Extraordinary Documentary About the Art of Sun Ra

By Richard Brody - April 6, 2020 - The New Yorker

Robert Mugge’s documentary “Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise”
In Robert Mugge’s documentary “Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise,” the musician speaks of the limitations of earthly creation
and the creative power that comes from outer space.

The prevalence of documentaries about musicians is a curse, because most of these films do a terrible job of showcasing music. One rare and moving exception is the work of the director Robert Mugge, whose film ““Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise”—about the musician and bandleader whose multimedia and pan-cultural activities made him one of the prime artists of Afrofuturism—is one of the most satisfying musical portraits I’ve ever seen. (It is streaming on SnagFilms and Amazon.) The film’s revelatory perspectives on Sun Ra’s work arise not only from the filmmaker’s analytical understanding of it, and the discussions that he films with Sun Ra and other members of the band, but also from his approach to filming music itself, in rehearsal and concert.

To see what’s exceptional about what Mugge does in “A Joyful Noise,” it’s worth considering what more conventional filmmakers tend to do in their films about other musicians. Most often, scenes of performance, whether taken from archival clips or filmed anew for the documentary at hand, run for a few seconds at a time before being covered on the soundtrack by voice-overs. It’s a pet peeve of mine. Even insightful and devoted filmmakers often prioritize conveying information and in the process lose sight—and sound—of the wonder, the miracle, the exertion at the core of the film: the work of the artist whose achievements they’re exploring.

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The film's 1980 world premiere screening