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Originally published Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 3:02 PM

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Movie review

'Sing Your Song' recounts Harry Belafonte's life

A review of the documentary "Harry Belafonte: Sing Your Song," which recounts the life and legacy of the great entertainer and activist.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3.5 stars

'Harry Belafonte: Sing Your Song,' a documentary directed by Susanne Rostock. 104 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains brief newsreel scenes of violence). SIFF Cinema at the Film Center.

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@ nwgeorge Banana Boat Song is pretty much it according to Wiki. Belafonte's... MORE
@johnon1sthill Not even close. He has had a very long career with a lot of interest... MORE
Wasn't Harry a one hit wonder? MORE

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"If we take time to understand each other, together we can turn the world around," says singer/activist Harry Belafonte.

The documentary "Harry Belafonte: Sing Your Song" smoothly rewinds an inspirational life. Belafonte, born in poverty in Harlem in 1927, was told by his immigrant mother as a child that "there was nothing in life that could not be attained."

And while he proved her correct by achieving remarkable success as a singer and actor, his true passion was for social change. While the film, directed by Susanne Rostock, outlines some highlights of his entertainment career, it's more focused on how he helped change the world in other ways: marching with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil-rights era; working against apartheid in South Africa; fighting hunger through his instrumental work with USA for Africa; and, most recently, working to combat gang violence through programs with inner-city youth.

It's a remarkable story, reminding us of the power of art to change lives (Belafonte's love for performing started when he was a young janitor's assistant and was given a free ticket to a play as a gratuity) and that one person can, indeed, make a difference. Speaking in a warm, mellow voice that's gotten just a bit raspier over the years, Belafonte narrates the film, making it a personal and intimate experience.

Now in his mid-80s, he notes at the end that perhaps it would be pleasant to live out his remaining years in luxury and reflection — but that "there's just too much in the world to be done."

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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