Review: Getting it Back: The Story of Cymande

Directed by Tim MacKenzie-Smith, they are the unsung heroes whose message of peace, love and funk sailed beyond Britain’s shores and helped shape music for five decades. Long after they stopped playing, the music played on, so they returned to play some more. Featuring: Mark Ronson, Norman Jay, Jazzie B, DJ Maseo of De la Soul, Jim James and Loui Vega.

It’s often talked about how much is lost in the technological age but Getting it Back: The Story of Cymande is the perfect example of how that access helps to rediscover the past. It explores how success is not a straight line, it can come at unexpected times, in unexpected ways. The band may have not been appreciated in their time but they ultimately found their audience. It’s refreshing to see how none of them hold a grudge over that struggle, they enjoy what they do, they believe in their music and its message. They manage to keep such a positive outlook which permeates the film’s atmosphere, which is inspiring given how much discrimination they faced.

The film does a brilliant job of exploring the different issues that the band’s experience raises. Beside that marathon to success, there’s the prevalent theme of racism. There’s no doubt that the band was hugely undermined by racial prejudice in Britain, there was clearly an audience for their music but were blocked by those in power, who had no interest in promoting Black artists. It’s a solemn affair to know how so many were deprived of their music for such discriminatory reasons and yet the band speak of it with such patience and resilience. Another theme the film explores is how music is generational, everyday with the help of YouTube, Spotify and more, young people are finding new passions for music created well before their time. It’s a wonderful way to keep burning the legacy of Cymande and bands like them.

Not only does Getting it Back: The Story of Cymande have such a charismatic, positive and enthusiastic atmosphere, it has an emotional undercurrent. It’s incredibly engaging to watch, the band members are humble, talented and charming. It’s edited extremely well to move in such a smoothly flowing way to create a fluid and swift pacing to the film. Tim MacKenzie-Smith‘s directorial style is very classically documentary and it instils the strong passion of all those involved, not just the band members. It also has a nice mix of modern day and satisfying nostalgia.

Getting it Back: The Story of Cymande is a riveting documentary, exploring how music can span across different generations and success can follow an abnormal path. As well as how the 1970s were not a welcoming time in Britain for Black artists, undermining Cymande’s attempts to reach a bigger audience. The audience was clearly there shown by the wonderful reunion of the band decades later, which is delightful to watch. Tim MacKenzie-Smith has put together a strong and joyous celebration of music, while never ignoring the difficulties along the way.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

Reviewed as part of London Film Festival 2022

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