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Documentaries & Non-Fiction Series

Director Deborah Riley Draper previews A&E’s “James Brown: Say it Loud” 

Director Deborah Riley Draper previews A&E’s “James Brown: Say it Loud”

Was James Brown the most important black man in America during his lifetime? That question kickstarted director Deborah Riley Draper‘s examination of the legendary musical genius. As a seasoned documentary filmmaker with an interest in having James Brown tell his story in his own words, Deborah combed through a vast amount of archival footage for this series. The result is a distinct visual style and language that truly highlights James Brown’s beliefs and thoughts while also showing his hypnotizing stage presence and the effect he had on live audiences.

While James Brown’s musical influence is still felt today through artists sampling his work or performers who have modeled their sound or appearance after him, not all of this behavior was exemplary. In presenting a picture of the entire artist — including faults, mistakes and missteps — I think Deborah Riley Draper has produced a definitive portrait of James Brown, from birth to death.


I had the chance to speak exclusively to director Deborah Riley Draper about why she wanted to make this documentary, how and why she let James Brown speak for himself, why it was so important to spend time with James Brown’s children and so much more.

Edited for content and clarity.

James Brown: Say It Loud is a 4-part documentary series premiering Monday, February 19th at 8/7c on A&E.

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