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THE BLACK GODFATHER GETS HIS DUE

The Black Godfather, the new Netflix documentary about industry legend Clarence Avant, is a mind-blowing chronicle of a storied career.

Directed by Reginald Hudlin, the film explores Avant's odyssey from tiny Climax, N.C. to the zenith of the biz, with stops in the offices of jazz manager/mentor Joe Glaser, the indie music world of the ‘70s, movie studios, Beverly Hills, the major-label power elite and the White House. As Black Music Month winds on, it’s ideal viewing.

How did this seemingly gruff dude who swears like a longshoreman—and declares repeatedly that numbers are all that matter—become synonymous with integrity and good works in the minds of so many? The answer comes from his admirers, who provide fulsome testimony here: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Berry Gordy, Quincy Jones, Irving Azoff, David Geffen, Clive Davis, Jerry Moss, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Jon Platt, Bill Withers, Sean Combs, Snoop Dogg, Kamala Harris, Al Sharpton, Nelson George, Benny MedinaHank Aaron and Jim Brown, among quite a few others, including Avant’s adoring but clear-eyed family.

What emerges is a portrait of a man who, without guile or trepidation, worked at every turn to advance black opportunity—and to support people he deemed worthy of his help. And he accomplished much of this simply by working his relationships. He appears in these myriad anecdotes not only as a skillful entrepreneur (who freely acknowledges his own bottom line) but as a mentor, a facilitator, a counselor and, fundamentally, a connector of people. 

Hudlin is patient in unspooling the vast range of Avant’s achievements. He also evokes funny, playful, emotional testimony from his subjects (not least the salty, sardonic Avant himself) and weaves it all together with a kinetic, vivid style. Check out the trailer below.

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