Only the Strong Survive

Year: 2002
Country: USA
Running time: 95 mins
Photography: Jim Desmond, Nick Doob, Chris Hegedus, Erez Laufer, Jehane Noujaim, D.A. Pennebaker

With: Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Wilson Pickett, Isaac Hayes, Mary Wilson, Sam Moore, The Chi-Lites, Ann Peebles

Festivals: Sundance, Cannes (Directors’ Fortnight), Vancouver, Amsterdam Documentary 2002
“The aging soul legends in Only the Strong Survive perform with a ferocity and funk that, in many cases, has only been amplified by the hard depths of their experience. Directed by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, the movie is a vital musical ramble, showing us where some of soul’s founders landed after their moment of pop glory. Sam Moore, of Sam and Dave, describes how he was a druggie living in a Times Square flophouse in the early 70s. Later, he performs “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby”, and his fall, and recovery, is right there in the heartbreaking empathy of his croon. Only the Strong Survive doesn’t have a lot of structural unity, yet when you’re listening to someone like Moore, or to Memphis ‘king’ Rufus Thomas doing “Walking the Dog” with a bawdy wink that belies his 82 years, it’s one of the happiest movies around.” — Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly.

Documentary legends Pennebaker and Hegedus are themselves the subject of See What Happens.