November 14, 2013
Sadly, the timing of release of 12-12-12 couldn't be more appropriate in light of the recent devastation in the Philippines. As we reflect on one disaster and take pride in the generosity of America and the world in helping with that recovery, we are collectively faced with yet another that requires even more global attention.
Mere weeks after Superstorm Sandy devastated the Northeast coastlines of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, a six-hour concert/telethon was put together by the Robin Hood Relief Fund, Harvey Weinstein and others to benefit the storm victims. Held at Madison Square Garden, the event was a Herculean effort broadcast on television and employed every medium available for fund-raising and public pledges. 12-12-12 is the story of the "making of" that concert.
While many of us were glued to the television or watching the concert online, we were treated to what has to be called "The 21st Century British Invasion" as every major British rock performer - The Who, Roger Waters, Eric Clapton, Michael Stipe, Rolling Stones and, of course, Sir Paul McCartney, among others - flew across The Pond to join major American talent the likes of Alicia Keyes, New Jersey's favorite sons Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen and New Yorker Bill Joel, to lend a hand to those in need. As we have seen time and again, particularly since 9-11, when disaster strikes, the entertainment community is at the ready to buoy the spirit, give hope and raise money. Just days after the concert, I interviewed Billy Crystal who, with so many others like James Gandolfini and the cast of "The Sopranos", Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Tony Danza, had graciously given of his time to participate in the event answering phones and making brief on-camera appearances. Crystal was "honored" to be asked and take part. This was a multi-generational coming together on a stratospheric level.
But what makes 12-12-12 a documentary to see is the integration of the "front men" and the "behind the scenes". For those of us who have worked concerts and/or telethons, we know the logistics and difficulties of putting together each type of show. To meld the two is something entirely different and even more challenging and more gratifying.
Going beyond the celebrities in rehearsal or the repeated celebrity fans in awe of meeting Sir Paul, we are treated to a calm Harvey Weinstein taking the bull by the horns with Google exec Eric Schmidt when internet traffic jams and stalls and gets the problem resolved in mere minutes; the concern of Weinstein, Sykes and others over on-screen energy and constant stream of information on how to make pledges (notable is the ever-present concern about getting those donations. A concert is fine, but each of these high-powered movers and shakers really keeps their eye on the ball as to the needs of the victims.); Madison Square Garden Executive Chairman James Dolan's argumentative and demanding nature on the production and event purpose - not to mention a great exploding of emotion thanks to a technical glitch; Clear Channel President John Sykes coordinating the production in pre-production meetings; and, most telling, Sir Paul McCartney, truly is the elder statesman of rock 'n roll (and perhaps the philanthropic consciousness) as time again, we hear executives and talent alike say, "Once we heard Paul McCartney was on board we couldn't say no."
Directed by Amir Bar-Lev, cinematographer George Wieser's lensing is fluid - and seemingly ubiquitous - as we are on the shoulder of Mick Jagger casually walking down the hall to the stage or dancing with Paul McCartney and his band "Monkeeing" around as they head to the stage or watching Roger Waters swigging a beer during rehearsal and Pete Townsend being concerned about the cost of pyrotechnics when the money could be better spent on victims. Like flies on the fall we are privy to concerns by Chris Martin and Michael Stipe teaming up because of not knowing each other's material. Ben Gold's editing keeps the documentary moving at a clip (although repeated check-ins at a Red Hook bar feel tedious and uninteresting), but on the whole we are left craving more - more performance and more behind-the-scenes.
While 12-12-12 only provides snippets of the majority of performances, many of which resonate with the tenor of the catastrophe and resiliency of the community (although we get full sets with executive producer Paul McCartney, The Stones, Springsteen and Billy Joel), the good-natured energy and rehearsal hijinks keep us sated while whetting the appetite for what one can only hope is a dynamite DVD with the full concert and even more behind-the-scenes action.
A shortcoming to 12-12-12 is that while end titles advise of the money raised and disbursed, we are never told to whom and where those disbursements went. On the plus side, all proceeds from the film will go to the Robin Hood Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.
We are America. We come together. We survive and we thrive. 12-12-12 shows us just that.
Directed by Amir Bar-Lev.