One of the most surprisingly tense experiences at the movies so far this year is "Rock the Bells," a documentary about a promoter's attempt to reunite rap superstars the Wu-Tang Clan for a July 2004 San Bernardino festival.
Chang Weisberg hustles to put the daylong event together despite the usual stumbling blocks -- local authorities, promotion, technical difficulties, etc. -- planning carefully but also setting some traps for himself. He oversells the venue and skimps on security. His biggest obstacle, however, is his star act.
The Wu-Tang Clan has long been simultaneously omnipresent and elusive in hip-hop. The beloved collective of nine (or 10) rappers has won awards, sold millions of records and flooded the market with solo efforts, but it has been notoriously difficult to assemble for concerts. That the Clan, made up of so many artists with solo careers -- including the infamously unreliable and bizarre Ol' Dirty Bastard -- would be completely reunited onstage for the first time in years causes a frenzy. Despite a talented and diverse lineup of artists at the festival (particularly impressive are MC Supernatural, Eyedea + Abilities, and provocateur Sage Francis), it's the reclusive "ODB" -- or rather, his absence -- that drives the story.