indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs: Music Portraits
To round out March’s indieWIRE at Hulu Docs – iW‘s regular curation of Hulu’s Documentaries page – we’re once again loosely inspired by the recently concluded SXSW, specifically its music component. While only a few of the films in this round are SXSW alums, they all are very much about music or musicians.
EDITOR’S NOTE: “indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs” is a regular column spotlighting the iW-curated selections on Hulu’s Documentaries page, a unique collaboration between the two sites. iW selections typically appear in the carousel at the top of the page and under “Featured Content” in the center. Be sure to check out the great non-fiction projects available to watch free of charge.
Suroosh Alvi and Eddy Moretti took their music doc “Heavy Metal in Baghdad” to Toronto, Berlin, and SXSW among many others in 2007 and 2008 before a limited theatrical release. The filmmakers profile Acrassicauda, Iraq’s only heavy metal band, who found that the freedom of artistic expression after the fall of Saddam Hussein was short-lived as their country entered into a violent insurgency against the US and Western influences – including Acrassicauda’s music. Following the band in their struggle to stay united and alive, the film at the same time documents the war’s influence on their generation, and on its hopes and dreams.
The man many herald as the best songwriter in the world is given a remarkable spotlight in “Be Here to Love Me: A FIlm About Townes Van Zandt.” Margaret Brown’s 2004 film premiered at Toronto, screened at other renowned festivals like Rotterdam and SXSW, and went on to a limited theatrical release. The documentary is an intimate portrait of the troubled musician, eschewing the typical talking heads focused praises that are often found in music docs to craft a much more evocative and impressionist tribute that is able to speak effectively to audiences who aren’t even necessarily familiar with his music.
Focusing on musicians from a wholly different genre, Nina Gilden Seavey’s 2003 “The Ballad of Bering Strait” tells the story of a Russian country music band as they come to Nashville to record their first album, following them through their first appearance on a US stage. Over more than two years, the seven teenagers experience the intricacies of the US music industry, with its hectic schedule of studio recording, rehearsals, and business meetings, while they adjust to life in rural Tennessee.
Alberto Arvelo Mendoza’s 2006 “Tocar Y Luchar” (To Play and To Fight) had its world premiere in Argentina’s Mar del Plata fest and its US premiere at AFI Fest. The doc reveals the incredible accomplishments of Venezuela’s innovative Youth Orchestra System, a network of orchestras that has exposed impoverished children from all over the country and beyond to music and inspired social change.
Finally, director Negin Farsad and co-director Kim Gatewood premiered “Nerdcore Rising,” their profile of the “Godfather of Nerdcore” MC Frontalot, at SXSW in 2008. Following Frontalot on his first national tour, this very fun film also explores the growth of his increasingly popular subgenre – hip hop by and for nerds, featuring often hilarious, sometimes groan-inducing rhymes – and the subculture to which it speaks.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Basil Tsiokos is a Programming Associate, Documentary Features for Sundance, consults with documentary filmmakers and festivals, and co-produced Cameron Yates’ feature documentary “The Canal Street Madam.” Follow him on Twitter (@1basil1 and @CanalStMadamDoc) and visit his blog (what (not) to doc).