Only the Strong Survive

Chris Hegedus, D.A. Pennebaker


Many of the great names in soul music have passed into musical heaven : Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells among them. Some 25 years after the hits stopped coming, what has happened to the music that is today listened to the world over and which served as the inspiration for rap and hip-hop ? What happened when disco took over? In the summer of 1999, D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, with journalist Roger Friedman, launched into a mission to find and record the great soul stars who never stopped working : Rufus Thomas, Wilson Pickett, Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave), Mary Wilson (of The Supremes), Carla Thomas, Isaac Hayes, Jerry Butler et les Chi Lites. How do they keep going ? Indeed, as Jerry Butler sings in the film, « Only the Strong Survive».

Quinzaine des Réalisateurs 2002

Full-length film, 1h35



Chris Hegedus

After graduating with a degree in Fine Arts, Chris Hegedus began her career as a cameraperson for the the University of Michigan Hospital. In 1975, she moved to New York City where she worked as director of photogaphy on Lizzie Borden’s controversial feminist film, Born in Flames. Her collaboration with D. A. Pennebaker began in 1976 with Town Bloody Hall and continued with other famous music documentaries they co-directed on Jimi Hendix, John Lennon, Otis Redding, as well as the Oscar nominated The War Room, about bill Clinton’s 1993 presidential campaign. Her most recent film is

portrait Chris Hegedus
  Chris Hegedus

D.A. Pennebaker

D. A. Pennebaker made his filmmaking debut with the 1953 short Daybreak Express, set to a Duke Ellington song. In 1959, he joined Drew Associates, a group of filmmakers organized by Robert Drew which developed the first portable 16mm synchronized camera and sound system. This technological development helped Pennebaker and his colleagues establish what became known as « Cinema Vérité». Out of this new style of filmmaking came such classics as Don’t Look Back (1965) and Monterey Pop (1968). His most recent film, with Chris Hegedus and Nick Doob, is Down From the Moutain based on the music of Joel and Ethan Coen’s O Brother Where Art Thou ?

portrait D.A. Pennebaker
  D.A. Pennebaker
Only the Strong Survive

Other infos


anglais / English


Jim Desmond, Nick Doob, Chris Hegedus, Erez Laufer, Jehane Noujaim, D.A. Pennebaker


Chris Hegedus, John Paul Pennebaker, Kit Pennebaker


Chris Hegedus, Erez Laufer, D.A. Pennebaker


Jerry Butler, The Chi Lites, Isaac Hayes, Sam Moore, Ann Peebles, Wilson Pickett, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Mary Wilson

Professional infos