Say Amen, Somebody (1982): George Nierenberg’s Docu about History and Meaning of Gospel Music

Juneteenth Celebration

George Nierenberg directed Say Amen, Somebody a documentary about the history and significance of gospel music.

Grade: B+ (**** out of *****)

Say Amen, Somebody
Say Amen Somebody.jpg

Original poster art

It is told through the lives and trials of its singers, who include Thomas A. Dorsey, considered the “Father of Gospel Music,” and “Mother” Willie Mae Ford Smith, an associate of Dorsey’s who trained gospel singers for decades.

Ford and three singing acts – Delois Barrett Campbell and the Barrett Sisters, Zella Jackson Price, and the O’Neal Twins, Edgar and Edward, backed by a choir – provide most of the music.

After its debut at the New York Film Fest, Say Amen, Somebody enjoyed a limited release in major cities, to great critical acclaim,

The film highlights the strong personalities within gospel music, their performance style, and their joyful music.

Made on a low budget of 300,000, Say Amen was a moderate success, earning over $1.1 million at the box office.

It was restored in 2019 and was shown at limited theaters, again receiving positive reviews.

Directed by George Nierenberg
Produced by George T. Nierenberg
Karen Nierenberg
Starring Thomas A. Dorsey
Willie Mae Ford Smith
Delois Barrett Campbell and the Barrett Sisters
Zella Jackson Price
the O’Neal Twins
Cinematography Edward Lachman, Don Lenzer
Edited by Paul Barnes
Production company: GTN Production
Distributed by MGM/UA
Release date: October 5, 1982
Running time 100 minutes
Budget $350,000
Box office $1,108,299