A Musician … and a Mystery

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Those who have seen “Searching for Sugar Man,” the 2012 Oscar-winning documentary about the search for a long-forgotten but influential ’70s musician from Detroit, will recall its more-or-less happy ending. In a similar vein now comes “The Changin’ Times of Ike White,” another small slice of pop music history with a back story just as interesting – if not as ultimately uplifting.

As shown in the film to be streamed this month by the Flint Institute of Arts, White was jailed for life at age 19 for murder, but he made the first commercial album recorded by an inmate inside an American prison. The 1976 disc, “Changin’ Times,” made a small splash but had a greater impact on White’s personal life. Singer Stevie Wonder helped secure the resources that led to White’s release from stir.

A few years ago, British documentarian Daniel Vernon sought to find White to make a film about him. Vernon found his subject, all right – but that’s when the story becomes really fascinating. A twisty mystery masquerading as a documentary, “The Changin’ Times of Ike White” is both admirable and disturbing. For, as the British magazine The Spectator astutely points out, how much different would White’s life have been had a filmmaker not shown up on his doorstep?

The less revealed in advance, the better. But you can see “The Changin’ Times of Ike White” in virtual screenings through the FIA’s website on February 5-7.

Another music-oriented film, “Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind,” will be shown February 26-28 by the FIA. It’s about another ’70s singer, but one much better known. Native Canadian Lightfoot cut radio staples such as “Sundown,” “Carefree Highway” and, of course, the Michigan-related “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

This month’s slate in the FIA’s Friends of Modern Art film series also includes a Michigan-set drama, “Once Upon a River,” coming February 12-14. This adaptation of the best-selling novel concerns a Native American teenager who endures trauma and tragedy before embarking on a river-bound odyssey in search of her estranged mother.

Set for February 19-21, “Assassins” recounts the 2017 murder of the brother of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in a crowded Malaysian airport. Two young women are portrayed as either cold-blooded killers or unwitting pawns in a political assassination.

For now, the FIA is holding virtual-only screenings. Given the current situation, titles, dates and viewing options are subject to change, so check the FIA website – flintarts.org – for updates or to purchase tickets.

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