Opening 19 Apr 2018
The roadmap for this documentary’s metaphorical landscape is double-tiered: American icon Elvis Presley, and more than a half-century of the country’s political pulse. No ordinary vehicle, either. Presley’s vintage 1963 Rolls Royce attracts people’s attention, and music. Director Eugene Jarecki, with co-writer Christopher St. John, gives an account of Elvis’ life exemplifying myths of the man, and heartbreaks of the times. Three Kings are mentioned: B.B. King, Presley – the “King of Rock n’ Roll,” and Dr. Martin Luther King. Elvis is appropriately bookended: Sun Records’ Sam Phillips was “looking for a white man that sang like a black” when he discovered Elvis who shot to fame with the single, “That’s All Right,” 1954.
Tom Bergmann, Christopher Frierson, and Étienne Sauret’s vast swath of cinematography mix with Antony Genn, Robert Miller, Martin Slattery’s music. The editing team, Simon Barker, Alex Bingham, Èlia Gasull Balada and Laura Israel’s quick-witted cuts incorporates: music—blues, gospel, alternative country, rock n’ roll, and rap; emblematic highway structures, and signage—Tupelo, Soulsville, Memphis, Hollywood, Las Vegas; archival footage: President Roosevelt, Elvis singing rockabilly, Ed Sullivan television variety programs, Elvis’ military stint, Viet Nam, Graceland, Dr. King, Robert Kennedy and more. Interviewees’ include Alec Baldwin’s prediction, Chuck D and cultural appropriation, James Carville and the Elvis impact, Mike Myers about image, as well as musicians Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Immortal Technique, and Emi Sunshine and the Immortals, et al. Gossip and commentaries, facts, and astute observations often with visual/verbal analogies cover the American Experiment and Dream, corporations, poverty and inequalities, religions, stardom and addictions. Buckle in – lots travel fast across the breadth of this cinematic highway.
With scalpel-like intensity Eugene Jarecki examines “the King’s” and country’s racial, cultural, historical, and socio-economic convergence that significantly influenced music, cuisine, and politics. This loosely structured road movie includes bystanders and hitchhikers unscripted cameos, as well as detours to nowhere. At the Hamburg, Germany, press screening critics commented on learning nothing new about Elvis…? Look beyond the Elvis persona in order to absorb the bigger picture. The King – Mit Elvis Durch Amerika, a.k.a. Promised Land, was shown during the Filmfest Hamburg and competed at Cannes Film Festival in 2017. (Marinell Haegelin)