Bradley's Almanac

[Here It Comes!] 10th Annual Independent Film Festival Boston: The Music Docs

Posted on April 19, 2012 at 7:48 pm | No Comments

In less than a week, on Wednesday, April 25th, the 10th annual Independent Film Festival Boston kicks off with an opening night screening of Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk With Me” (and a post-film Q&A from producer and This American Life host Ira Glass), wrapping up 8 long days later with Lauren Greenfield’s riches-to-way-less-riches documentary “The Queen of Versailles” on Wednesday, May 2nd. In between, over 130 carefully-curated films will roll on projectors at the Somerville Theatre, The Brattle in Harvard Square, and Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theatre.

As with previous years’ lineups, the 2012 edition has a healthy handful of music-related documentaries. The staff, who spend endless (volunteered) hours screening hundreds of submitted films, has always made a point of including music docs in their varied schedule, and that’s one of the many reasons I’ve never missed a single IFFBoston. Hard for me to believe it’s been a decade, maybe even harder for the tireless (actually, probably very tired) crew.

So here’s a quick rundown of the seven music-related documentaries screening at this year’s IFFB, most of which will have their directors in attendance for post-film Q&As. Make sure you pick up individual advance tickets for the ones that strike you, or better yet, grab a full festival pass and make the most of it. Many screenings sell out early, so unless you’re up for waiting in risky rush lines, play it safe…

Independent Film Fest Boston: The Music Docs

All Ages: The Boston Hardcore Film
Directed by Drew Stone, who will attend for a post-film Q&A

Boston. Hardcore. Those words carry a lot of history, a lot of weight. This documentary has been in the works for awhile now, so I’m pretty psyched it’s finally ready to roll. Even more psyched that it’s the IFFBoston that scored the premiere. Given the deep local ties this film has, I’m not at all surprised it sold out quickly, so if you got caught off guard, you’ll either have to pick up a festival pass or show up at least an hour before showtime and cross your fingers in the rush line.

[ Tickets / Facebook / Brattle page / IMDB ]

Screening at 7:30pm on Friday, April 27th at the Brattle Theatre

Andrew Bird: Fever Year
Directed by Xan Aranda, who will attend for a post-film Q&A

As with past years, I was asked to screen a couple IFFB films early and write synopses for their program guide. “Fever Year” was one of them, and here’s what I had to say…

“I’m either sweating bullets or I’m freezing all the time…
but it seems like a worthy thing to do with your life.”

—Andrew Bird

In director Xan Aranda’s new documentary, which covers the final months of singer/songwriter/master whistler Andrew Bird’s nonstop 2009 tour, Aranda’s subject truly embodies the old adage of “suffering for your art.” Wrestling with a low-grade fever throughout and a foot injury in the last stretch, Bird never lets his afflictions get between him, his songs, and the audiences that come to hear them. The film deftly balances biography and live footage (mostly from a two-night stand at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theatre), offering real insight into Bird’s creative process, artistic motivations, and evolution as a music maker. It’s a fascinatingly in-depth portrait of a true artist—one who is driven by a pure, singular compulsion, maladies be damned.

Highlights include early performances of songs from his just-released album, Break It Yourself (including a gorgeous duet with Annie Clark of St. Vincent), as well as fan favorites “Fake Palindromes,” “Fitz and the Dizzyspells,” and “Opposite Day.”

[ Tickets / Website / Facebook / Twitter / IMDB ]

Screening at 7:45pm on Thursday, April 26th at the Somerville Theatre

Beware of Mr. Baker
Directed by Jay Bulger, who will attend for a post-film Q&A

Peter Edward Baker – aka “Ginger”. Legendary drummer for Cream, Blind Faith, and many, many others. Incorporating percussion elements of rock, metal, jazz, and African rhythms into his varied career, he’s a madman behind the kit, and as those familiar with him know, not just when he’s playing. His colorful, sometimes sordid past is told here in his own words, and his influence is measured by the likes of Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Charlie Watts, Mickey Hart, Carlos Santana, Neal Peart, and Marky Ramone, who all make appearances in the film.

[ Tickets / Website / Facebook / Twitter / IMDB ]

Screening at 9:15pm on Monday, April 30th at the Somerville Theatre

Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet
Directed by Jesse Vile

Can’t recommend this one highly enough. It’s another film I was fortunate enough to screen early, so here’s my write-up for the IFFBoston program guide…

Outside certain circles, only a handful of virtuoso metal guitarists have achieved the mainstream name recognition of an Eddie Van Halen, a Steve Vai, or an Yngwie Malmsteen. And, in a just world, Jason Becker would be among them. The guy couldn’t just play, he could shred—and, like most late-’80s metalheads, he did it with huge hair, tight pants, and some all-pro guitar faces. Unlike his peers, though, Jason was just as likely to toss off a Bach fugue as a vintage Clapton solo. Fans and fellow players called him a prodigy, and they weren’t wrong.

So what happened? Where did he go? Why speak of his talent in the past tense? Therein lies a tale compassionately told in director Jesse Vile’s JASON BECKER: NOT DEAD YET. At once tragic and uplifting—the title itself is a spoiler—it will melt your heart as it breaks it in two. It tackles big questions: What would you do if you lost everything? How much of yourself would you sacrifice for a loved one? Can pure willpower overcome physical limitation? Jason’s story is uniquely powerful, truly moving, and deeply inspirational—something many biopics strive for, but few achieve.

[ Tickets / Website / Twitter / IMDB ]

Screening at 9:15pm on Saturday, April 28th at the Brattle Theatre

Just Like Being There
Directed by Scout Shannon, who will attend for a post-film Q&A along with subject/artist Daniel Danger

No, not technically a music doc, but one that’ll strike a chord in many music fans: Gig posters and the artists behind them.

From the official website: “In the gig poster community, artists such as Daniel Danger and Jay Ryan prove that creating this artwork is a way of life, more than just a career. These artists are at the forefront of an expansion of the gig poster genre. MONDO’s reinvigoration of “the film poster as an art form,” and Gallery 1988’s theme based exhibits are only two ways in which this artwork is reaching a greater public. In a community with strong roots, dating back to the 1960s, this expansion is controversial- refreshing to some, sacrilegious to others.”

The soundtrack sounds killer, too, with tracks from Okkervil River, Tokyo Police Club and Spoon.

[ Tickets / Website / Facebook / Twitter / IMDB ]

Screening at 7:30pm on Sunday, April 29th at the Somerville Theatre

Paul Williams Still Alive
Directed by Stephen Kessler, who will attend for a post-film Q&A

If you grew up in the 70s, and paid any particular attention to pop culture, you knew about Paul Williams. The diminutive songwriter and performer was seemingly everywhere for awhile there, and if you couldn’t see him, you were hearing his songs sung by the likes of Karen Carpenter, Barbara Streisand, and yes, a certain frog named Kermit. Eventually, though, Williams just sort of… disappeared. Off the radar. Well, as the director of this documentary discovered, he’s very much still alive, and the film exploration of his past and present is getting raves all around.

Bonus: Watch a clip of Williams performing “The Rainbow Connection” with a cast of many Muppets, just last week at Carnegie Hall during a tribute show called “Jim Henson’s Musical World”.

[ Tickets / Website / IMDB ]

Screening at 7:00pm on Tuesday, May 1st at the Coolidge Corner Theatre

Under African Skies
Directed by Joe Berlinger, who will attend for a post-film Q&A

An in-depth look at the recording of, controversy surrounding, and influence of Paul Simon’s renowned 1986 “Graceland” album on the occasion of its 25th anniversary. Features interviews with Simon’s collaborators (and detractors), footage of Simon’s recent return to Africa, and clips of the original Graceland live performances. Director Berlinger was the man behind the camera for acclaimed documentaries “Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster” and the West Memphis Three “Paradise Lost” films.

[ Tickets / Website / Twitter / IMDB ]

Screening at 8:00pm on Sunday, April 29th at the Somerville Theatre


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