The new documentary Thunder Soul tells a story that in its contours, may seem familiar to most moviegoers. On one level, it’s an “inspirational teacher” tale, a real-life Stand and Deliver or Mr. Holland’s Opus, about Conrad “Prof” Johnson, a teacher who, in the late 1960s, formed a school stage band at Kashmere High School in Houston. The band garnered international acclaim and transformed the lives of many of its young performers.
But the film, directed by Mark Landsman, is also a portrait of both the cruelties and unexpected graces of time, much like Michael Apted’s famed Up documentary series, which has chronicled the lives of a group of young British students at seven-year intervals.
Landsman’s story centers