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SOL Development Guides the Lyrical Doc ‘When the Waters Get Deep’

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Karega Bailey performs with SOL Development in 'When the Waters Get Deep.' (KQED)

Starting Tuesday, Nov. 17, the documentary When the Waters Get Deep (directed by KQED Arts & Culture’s Kelly Whalen) will be available to stream as part of the Cucalorus Film Festival (typically hosted in Wilmington, North Carolina, but now, like most things, online). Tune in through Nov. 20 to watch the lyrical half-hour film about Oakland musicians SOL Development, a group using hip-hop, jazz and soul to tell the stories that are hardest to tell: about policing, mass incarceration and gun violence.

I’m biased, clearly, but the beauty and compassion at the heart of When the Waters Get Deep charts a path forward for those who have experienced great loss, among them MC Karega Bailey, whose brother was killed in a shooting. Guiding Bailey and viewers to peace is BE-IMAGINATIVE, a collective of artists, healers and community leaders who facilitate healing through what they call “multidimensional storytelling.”

When the Waters Get Deep is a multidimensional story of its own, full of SOL Development’s joyful music, moments of connection between the band and their audiences, and the love they have for each other. It is not an easy film to watch (I will recommend you keep a box of tissues close by), but it’s a powerful one. When the Waters Get Deep pushes at the boundaries of what a documentary can be: not a outside perspective swooping in to impose a narrative framework on a particular community, but an agent of healing made by and for that community.


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