Langston Hughes African American Film Festival

This year’s Langston Hughes African American Film Festival closes with Still Bill, a documentary profile of Bill Withers, who nailed sounds-of-the-'70s hooks from touchy funk ("Use Me" and its wary-wicked clavinet) to adult-contempo bliss-out ("Lovely Day"). Though he's ready with easy charm, his sensibly jaded edge keeps things interesting (both tendencies may be reactions to stuttering since childhood). Thirteenth-born in a West Virginia mining family, and late to the business in his early thirties, Withers held on to a factory-line job at first, and maintains a mythos about scant performing experience despite what his Navy buddies say. He walks railroad ties in the old hometown, visits stuttering kids, amiably deflates a forced rap session on selling out with Cornel West and Tavis Smiley (Withers: "We’re all entrepreneurs"), and refrains from criticizing his aspiring-singer daughter. Happily married to an MBA, with a son headed to law school, Withers gets a sleepily even-keel portrait that could use more on musical technique, though it is nice to see him get happy with singer-songwriter Raul Midón. (Through April 25 at Central Cinema and MoHaI; regular screenings $8.) NICOLAS RAPOLD

Sat., April 17, 7 p.m.; April 18-25, 2010

 
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