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FRIDAY

Anybody who favors the cold distance of Ken Burns’ epics might be disconcerted by the warm handshake of Standing in the Shadows of Motown. The documentary is an almost-two-hour look at the Funk Brothers (pictured), the small cadre of ace blues and jazz hands who played largely uncredited on that label’s hits through the early ’70s. The film’s loving interviews and archival clips provide a decent backbone, but the filmmakers also assembled the surviving Brothers—who rarely left Detroit during Motown’s peak years—at a Royal Oak, Mich., theater to film a 2000 performance. “I’ll tell you how bad these guys wanted to do this movie: After we finished, two of them had multiple bypass heart surgery, and one underwent chemo for lung cancer. They kept the severity of their maladies from me until afterwards,” says co-producer Allan Slutsky, the title of whose 1989 book on legendary Funk Brothers bassist James Jamerson also serves as the film’s title. Slutsky sees the $2.5 million film, which was more than a decade in the making, as a vindication of sorts. “At first, they thought that what they were doing was crap, just a paycheck for playing music that was somewhat beneath them,” he says. “As time went on, they began to realize they were creating art on a very high level.” But by then, Slutsky continues, “their moment had passed.” The guest vocalists (including Chaka Kahn, Ben Harper, and Joan Osborne) perhaps get too much face time during the reunion clips; even so, their efforts are certainly beyond anything you’ll hear at a wedding or bar mitzvah. Slutsky will answer questions after the film’s preview, which begins at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, at the Library of Congress’ Coolidge Auditorium, 101 Independence Ave. SE. $2. (202) 707-5502. (Joe Warminsky)