Hamptons DocFest: Say Amen, Somebody

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December 3
at 11:30am

Say Amen, Somebody


Followed by a performance of contemporary Gospel Music by Jeff Roberson and Nulife Singers

100 min, plus performance


DIRECTOR: George T. Nierenberg
PRODUCERS: George T. Nierenberg, Karen Nierenberg
EDITOR: Paul Barnes
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Edward Lachman, Don Lenzer


Say Amen, Somebody is a joyful tribute to black men and women who first began combining the heart and soul of Negro spirituals with the infectious rhythms of jazz and blues. The film follows two main figures: Thomas A. Dorsey, considered the Father of Gospel Music, 83 at the time of filming, and Willie Mae Ford Smith, 77 and an associate of Dorsey’s and the film’s primary subject. Dorsey recalls how he came to write Take My Hand, Precious Lord and the difficulties he faced introducing gospel blues to black churches in the early 1930s. Smith trained several very influential 20th century gospel singers even though she remained relatively unknown herself outside of gospel.


As a 28-year-old Jewish filmmaker, George Nierenberg had no experience with gospel music before taking on this project. He had recently finished No Maps on My Taps, a 1979 documentary following three New York City-based tap dancers.  Seeking ideas for a new project, he asked blues guitarist and friend Ry Cooder for suggestions. Cooder told him, “You oughta look into gospel music; those cats are really neat.” The film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 1982 and in 2019 Nierenberg supervised the restoration of the inspirational film which has played at festivals around the globe.


Say Amen, Somebody is sponsored by Messina, Perillo and Hill LLM

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