Relief concerts are a tricky beast, because they require a balancing act between reverence for the event being confronted and the spectacle of musicians doing what they do best.
At the same time, documentaries centered on said fundraising showcases must spotlight the musical performances without sacrificing an awareness of the larger forces at play.
By the former standard, the 12-12-12 concert for Sandy relief, held at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 12 of last year, was a mixed bag.
On one hand, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel tailored their sets to the disaster-affected region, with Springsteen's stirring renditions of "Land of Hopes and Dreams," "Wrecking Ball," "My City of Ruins" and "Born to Run" beginning the concert on a powerful high and Joel sustaining that feeling later on, with "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)" and "New York State of Mind," among others.
Performers Kanye West, Bon Jovi and The Rolling Stones were among those who delivered mostly boilerplate renditions of their hits, however. They deserve great credit for showing up and helping. There's a lot to be said for West's "Jesus Walks"; millions inexplicably love "Wanted Dead or Alive," and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" is, well, "Jumpin' Jack Flash," but the emotions weren't the same.
Fortunately, Amir Bar-Lev, director of the "12-12-12" documentary, understands that this isn't really the story of celebrities rocking out or of clichéd crowd reaction shots. It's about Sandy survivors who were at the Garden that night and those far beyond its walls.
So we get scenes in a Red Hook Bar that recently had its power restored, images from the storm and rebuilding efforts and testimony from first-responders and others who survived the storm on the front-lines. The collective picture that results is a city of eight million brought together as one.
Documentary by Amir Bar-Lev
Playing at Angelika