Pop music and film have co-existed since the end of the silent era. So it should come as no surprise that there’s a bevy of music focused docs screening at this year’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.
“We don’t program thematically,” says the fest’s executive director Chris McDonald. “Invariably films about music and musicians do well with audiences and with our programmers. We have a great number this year.”
He singles out Complaints Choir, which looks at a choral ensemble who create live musical events with complaints people submit, as a personal favourite. “I know it’s going to be an audience favourite,” he says. “It’s a very funny film.”
Other films music fans will want to check out include Shadowplay, which flips the lens on famed rock photographer Anton Corbijn. Many of his past subjects, including Kurt Cobain and Bono, sing the Dutch photog’s praises while we get a behind-the-scenes look at his Ian Curtis biopic Control.
With A Drummer’s Dream, famed Canadian filmmaker John Walker (Men of the Deep) once again turns his camera to the music world. As some of the world’s best drummers congregate at a Canadian summer camp; it’s like Drumline meats Meatballs.
Indie-rock and synth pop fans alike would be advised to check out Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields. Following the band as they tour 2004’s i and record its followup, Distortion, the film offers a window into the mind of Merritt, the band’s curmudgeonly frontman and his long-term friendship with band-mate Claudia Gonson. Not to be missed, even by casual fans of the group.
Giving Canada’s own Langley Schools Music Project a run for its money, Thundersoul reunites Houston’s Kashmere High School Band 35 years after last playing together. The high-school funk group were a ’70s phenomenon thanks to the school’s band master Conrad Johnson, whose passing was the impetus for the reunion.
But if run of the mill pop music doesn’t float your boat, then maybe We Don’t Care about Music Anyway is your flick. Delving deep into Tokyo’s avant-garde music scene, the film explores everything from screeching strings to minimalist bleeps, examining the ever blurring lines between what we hear as music and noise.
Finally, no self respecting music fan can miss 1991: The Year Punk Broke, Dave Markey’s long out of print doc which followed noise-rock Gods Sonic Youth on their 1991 tour. Along for the ride as opening acts were Dinosaur Jr. and a little band called Nirvana. I wonder whatever happened to them?