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12-12-12: John Sykes
12-12-12: John Sykes | Paula Schwartz Photo

The Weinstein Company celebrated the premiere of the wonderfully shot Hurricane Sandy Benefit concert documentary “12-12-12” Thursday night at the Ziegfeld Theater in Manhattan.

Harvey Weinstein partnered with John Sykes and James Dolan to put on the concert, which raised over $50 million in one night for the Robin Hood Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund to support organizations helping victims in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Some of the rock industry’s biggest stars performed, including Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones, The Who, Eric Clapton, Chris Martin, Michael Stipe, Billy Joel, Roger Waters, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Eddie Vedder, Jon Bon Jovi, Kanye West and Alicia Keys.

The film gives viewers a chance to go backstage and see the biggest stars in the world get ready for the show. It’s not a compilation of concert footage that everyone could see on television that night, but rather captures the spirit of the camaraderie of the performers, while never letting you forget why they are there: there’s plenty of footage of the devastation of the storm and the suffering of the victims who display courage and resilience throughout.

Some of the lighter moments of the film include a high spirited Paul McCartney walking down the hall backstage singing the goofy Monkees theme song a cappella, “Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees. And people say we monkey around. We’re too busy singing to put anybody down.”

Then there’s Keith Richards heading to the stage, a bandana pirate style wrapped around his head, snarling, “It’s about time somebody did something around here.”

Meanwhile Billy Crystal quips for the camera, “There are actually some performers here older than I am, and that means a lot to me.” Then as the Rev. Jesse Jackson walks by, Crystal cracks that he’s a big baseball fan and thrilled to see Reggie Jackson.

12-12-12: Alicia Keys
12-12-12: Alicia Keys | Paula Schwartz Photo

Early in the evening on the red carpet, we saw an animated Tony Danza, who in the film sums up the vibe of the concert, “This is the best of us when we come together like this.”

On the red carpet, the very skinny Roger Waters, who’s got the languid, sexy rocker routine down even better than Billy Nighy in “Love Actually,” was grabbed by a camera crew from Howard Stern’s camp to wish the “X Factor” judge happy birthday.

“Howard, Happy Birthday. This is Roger Waters. I’m actually over 70. Let’s not talk about me. Let’s talk about you. I know you hate to talk about anybody but you.”

Earlier he told a journalist he didn’t go to the devastated areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, he left that to the politicians. “I don’t kiss babies. My way of influencing and gathering hearts and minds is through the songs that I write and the performances that I do.”

On the red carpet, I spoke to Amir Bar-Lev, who co-directed “12-12-12” with Charlie Lightening. The charming director told me the most unexpected aspect of making the film was  “the candor and the kind of openness of the rock and roll stars, who allowed us to film them throughout. You expect these people to be heavily guarded. Our cameras were able to capture a lot. That was a privilege for me, because these are all my favorite musicians.”

About his partnership with Lightening, he told me the two men were originally making separate documentaries. “He’s a music guy and that’s not my original strength, so we complemented one another pretty well, I hope, and we joined forces the night of the concert,” Bar-Lev said.

“We were trying to follow suit with the spirit of this concert and of the way New York took care of itself after Sandy, so we initially were actually like in conception with one another, and then we said, this is crazy, let’s make one film and that’s what happened.”

Throughout the film, the running joke – by the performers themselves – is that most of the classic rock-heavy lineup is comprised of older white guys. “There’s a reason for that,” Bar-Lev told me, “and the reason is that they wanted to raise as much money as possible so they wanted the biggest grossing acts. So the front row seats were upwards of $10,000 or something. Those types of people really gravitate towards older rockers.”

On the red carpet, Harvey Weinstein, John Sykes and Jim Dolan spoke of the generosity of the artists in putting together the concert on such short notice. The performers came from all over the world. “The logistics were crazy” Dolan said. “We didn’t sleep for five weeks.”

Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Roger Waters “called the first weekend and said we’re in,” Sykes said. “They’re like peer leaders. They basically get the others going. There wasn’t a weak link in the chain.”

Harvey Weinstein said the film was about the resilience and spirit of New York City. “We sort of gave the finger to the storm in this. That’s what happens in the movie, it’s like we’re sort of saying to the storm, you can try, but you won’t get there. In the end we’ll triumph. In the end we kick your butt. And that’s what happens in this movie. The Storm loses.”

Click on the images below for larger views and sharing options. All photos by Paula Schwartz.

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