Film First and HBO Documentary Films

The career of 77-year-old vocal legend Mavis Staples is a lesson in American history as it encompasses the evolution of gospel, R&B, message songs, the Civil Rights Movement, rock ‘n’ roll and much, much more. That’s the most impressive lesson from watching MAVIS!, an in-depth examination of a singer whose powerful, distinctive vocals have contributed to a wide array of historic musical moments. Director Jessica Edwards creates a compelling story, blending footage of live performances, behind-the-scenes video, archival images, and interviews with an array of friends, wide-ranging as Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Jeff Tweedy, and Chuck D. From her early days singing with her family in a Chicago church to the pop success of the Staples Singers, their appearances at civil rights rallies led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., her collaborations with Prince, and a marriage proposal from Dylan, the contours of Staples’ musical life outline the shape of pop culture history. Edwards’ film not only recounts the facts of Staples’ success, but also explains why her work has had such impact, detailing why her singing is distinctive and how the Staples singers redefined gospel music’s sound. For revealing how the life of a still-active musical legend has helped build the backbone of most popular music, MAVIS! wins a Peabody award.


Executive Producers: Gary Hustwit, Sheila Nevins (for HBO). Producers: Rachel Mills, Jessica Edwards. Senior Producer: Sara Bernstein (for HBO). Talent: Mavis Staples, Roebuck “Pops” Staples, Cleotha Staples, Pervis Staples, Yvonne Staples. Director: Jessica Edwards. Director of Photography: Keith Walker. Editor: Amy Foote.