Johnny Childs' Blues Before Sunrise, Film Review - by J. Blake

Posted on 1/26/2010 by J. Blake

(New York, NY)

BLUES BEFORE SUNRISE is a documentary chronicling one bluesman’s struggle to obtain a “record deal” before his 30th birthday. The film opens in California, with a 29 year-old Johnny Childs (a.k.a. Yonah Krohn) crashing on a friend’s couch. The year is 2001, just 6 months before his self-imposed deadline. He is broke, living off of the kindness of his friends and pawning his guitar from week to week for survival money.

The camera follows Childs through the various steps he takes to try and achieve his goal; cold calling record companies in attempt to get people to come to his showcases, paying homeless people to wear signs that count down the days until his deadline and even trying to weasel his way on to The Howard Stern Show. The singer/guitarist is charming, talented and very determined. His professional struggle is engaging and relatable, but the film’s real strengths lie in the story of Childs’ past and in the struggles of his personal life.

Born to a large and “ultra-conservative” Orthodox Jewish family, by age 12 Yonah Krohn (a.k.a. Johnny Childs) had already fallen into bad habits and found trouble with law (on several occasions). Outcast from his family, he spent his early teenage years as an entrepreneur, running everything from cleaning companies and painting businesses to dealing drugs. By age 15 he was a little Jewish Tony Montana, completely on his own and the toast of the town; dealing cocaine in Miami Florida to a wealthy clientele that included fashion model industry. It was during this time that he took up playing the guitar. He spent the following years honing his musical skills, being thrown off of open-mic stages in New York, fronting a hard-rock band in Israel and finding his calling as a blues artist in California. As the film brings Childs’ trials and tribulations up to the present day of 2001, we see the unknown bluesman struggling to take care of his drug addicted brother, failing miserably at running a ‘speed-dating’ service and spending over a week in the L.A. County Jail for outstanding traffic warrants.

As for the film itself, it suffers from the same problems that many ‘one-man’ productions suffer from. As the producer, director and editor, Childs is most likely unable to separate himself from the material enough, to watch the film with an objective point of view. The film runs a tad long, spends a little too much time on some of the less interesting aspects of his life and because of its flashback-heavy structure, knowing where you are within the film’s (and Childs’) timeline can be a bit difficult at times.

However, with all that said, the musician/filmmaker’s story is easily compelling enough to overcome these flaws. He has led an extraordinary life and amazingly most of it seems to have been captured on video. The sheer amount of footage spanning the entirety of his 30 years (up to 2001) is nothing short of astounding. As a filmmaker, he weaves an engaging underdog tale that manages to be both familiar and fascinating.

This film took 8 years to complete and proves to be just one more example of Childs' undying determination. I recommend BLUES BEFORE SUNRISE to both music and film lovers and I strongly urge blues fans to check out Johnny Childs’ music. Perhaps the film’s biggest flaw is that it and his life, overshadow his music and the fact that he is an exceptional blues talent; with a unique guitar-style and infectious energy.

*If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy: Tommy Castro Interview

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Copyright © 2010 - J. Blake. All Rights Reserved

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