Sound Unseen Brings Fugazi, Cyndi Lauper Docs to Austin

Minneapolis-based film fest spotlights local links for Austin leg

Let the Canary Sing, the new documentary about pop legend Cyndi Lauper, will be the opening night film at this year's Austin leg of Sound Unseen

Cyndi Lauper, Fugazi, the Carpenters, and Bikini Kill sounds like the most impossible festival lineup: well, it's happening, at least on the silver screen, as the Sound Unseen Film+Music Festival has announced the titles for its 2023 Austin screenings (Dec. 6-10).

Founded in Minneapolis in 1999 as a place for films on music, courtesy of co-programmer/festival director and former aGLIFF festival director Jim Brunzell and program director Rich Gill the festival added a virtual Austin expansion in 2020, before transforming into a live/online hybrid in 2021 and then expanding with more localized programming last year. Now, after adding a second Minnesota leg in Rochester, it's back for a fourth year in the ATX, and the local connections continue.

Close to home for the Chronicle is the local premiere of We Are Fugazi From Washington, DC, a remarkable compilation of rare and previously unseen footage of the post-hardcore innovators, overseen by music video director Joseph Pattisall, Jeff Krulik (director of the headbanging sociological doc "Heavy Metal Parking Lot"), and Austin's own resident Fugazi historian and Chronicle contributor Joe Gross (and when we say that Gross wrote the book on Fugazi, we're not kidding).

There's another familiar local name in the credits for Runaway Radio with Jeffrey Brown (Every Night's a Saturday Night, Nothing Stays The Same: The Story of The Saxon Pub) in the producer's chair for this history of 101 KLOL, Houston's famous AOR and classic rock station.

Lost Soulz, the debut feature from Austin filmmaker Katherine Propper

Also making its Austin debut is Lost Soulz. The debut feature from Katherine Propper ("Street Flame," "Birds"), the film is the AFS Grant-supported story of a young East Austin rapper on an unexpected road trip. It was the toast of this year's Tribeca Film Festival where it premiered, and for its Austin drop, Sound Unseen and Dash Donato have also curated a hip-hop showcase at High Noon (2000 E. Cesar Chavez) featuring five of the rappers featured in the film.

The festival opens with another Tribeca success: Let the Canary Sing explores the incredible career of Cyndi Lauper. She's far from the only woman in music to get celebrated on screen: Karen Carpenter: Starving for Perfection looks at the tragic life and extraordinary impact of the drummer, singer, and songwriter, while the festival will also host a special 10th anniversary retrospective screening of The Punk Singer, Sini Anderson's definitive biography of Bikini Kill/Le Tigre/the Julie Ruin powerhouse and provocateur Kathleen Hanna.

Sound Unseen ATX 2023 runs Dec. 6-10 at AFS Cinema, 6259 Middle Fiskville. Tickets, passes, and info at


Let the Canary Sing

D: Alison Ellwood
USA, 96 min

Chronicling Cyndi Lauper’s meteoric ascent to stardom and her profound impact on generations through her music, ever-evolving punk style, unwavering feminism, and tireless advocacy. The film takes the audience on an engaging exploration of the world of a renowned and pioneering artist who has left an unparalleled impact on the music industry. The film features interviews with some of Cyndi’s closest friends and family members, including Boy George, Billy Porter, and Patti LaBelle. Dec. 6, 7:30pm


Lost Soulz

D: Katherine Propper
USA, 95 min

Set to a lo-fi, genre-bending soundtrack, Lost Soulz follows a young rapper as he leaves behind his surrogate family and sets out on an expedition across Texas, contemplating new and old friendships. Dec. 9, 7pm


Born Innocent: The Redd Kross Story

D: Andrew Reich
USA, 85 min

Formed in 1978 by brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald, and still actively playing and recording today, Redd Kross are the ultimate rock and roll lifers. They have influenced independent music in ways that beg to be acknowledged. From helping invent Beach Punk to influencing the Grunge and Glam Metal movements, Redd Kross have maintained the highest level of musical integrity, originality and quality for over forty years. Dec. 7, 7pm

Ghosts of the Chelsea Hotel (And Other Rock & Roll Stories)

D: Danny Garcia
Spain, 70 min

The film explores the hotel’s role in the cultural and artistic movements of the 20th century, from the Beat Generation to the Punk Rock scene. It also touches on the controversies and tragedies that have occurred at the hotel, including the mysterious death of Nancy Spungen, girlfriend of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious, who called the Chelsea Hotel “an artistic tornado of death and destruction and love and broken dreams”. Dec. 7, 9pm

The Punk Singer (2013)

D: Sini Anderson
USA, 82 min

Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of the punk band Bikini Kill and dance-punk trio Le Tigre, rose to national attention as the reluctant but never shy voice of the riot grrrl movement. She became one of the most famously outspoken feminist icons, a cultural lightning rod. Her critics wished she would just shut-up, and her fans hoped she never would. Therefore, in 2005, when Hanna stopped shouting, many wondered why. Through 20 years of archival footage and intimate interviews with Hanna, The Punk Singer takes viewers on a fascinating tour of contemporary music and offers a never-before-seen view into the life of this fearless leader. Dec. 8, 7pm

We Are Fugazi From Washington, DC

D: Joe Gross, Joseph Pattisall, Jeff Krulik
USA, 96 min

To commemorate the 20 years that have passed since DC-based post-hardcore band Fugazi’s last live appearance, We Are Fugazi From Washington, DC comprises crowd-sourced, fan-recorded live shows and rare archival footage to pay tribute to Fugazi’s prowess as a live act — for old fans to remember and for a new generation to discover what they missed. This unique archival assemblage celebrates the fans and their cameras, as much as the band itself — a collision/collusion of the ephemeral moment on stage, and the moments captured on camera. Dec. 8, 9:15pm

Runaway Radio

D: Mike McGuff
USA, 83 min

A legendary Houston, TX rock radio station broke new records, defined the culture, and attracted top music artists, all while whipping listeners into a frenzy. Like an out-of-control locomotive, 101 KLOL seemed unstoppable until the government stepped in. What happened to rock radio? Lyle Lovett, ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill, Melissa Etheridge and Sammy Hagar, along with top DJs from across the US, reflect on how radio changed their lives, and why it’s now hard to find rock on the FM dial. Dec. 9, 4:30pm

Karen Carpenter: Starving for Perfection

D: Randy Martin
USA, 98 min

As the #1 American musical act of the 1970s, The Carpenters were on “Top of the World,” producing a string of pop masterpieces, including “Close to You,” “We’ve Only Just Begun,” and “Rainy Days and Mondays.” But behind closed doors, Karen’s quest for perfection resulted in low self-esteem, a disheartening love life, and a public battle with anorexia nervosa, which resulted in her untimely death at the age of only 32. For the first time, we hear Karen Carpenter’s personal struggle in her own voice through never-before-released recordings – and through the legendary voices of those who knew her and were inspired by her music, including Carol Burnett, Olivia Newton-John, Kristin Chenoweth, Cynthia Gibb, Suzanne Somers, and Belinda Carlisle. Dec. 10, 3pm

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Sound Unseen, Sound Unseen 2023, We Are Fugazi From Washington D.C., Lost Soulz, Katherine Propper, Joe Gross, Runaway Radio, The Punk Singer, Ghosts of the Chelsea Hotel (And Other Rock & Roll Stories), Born Innocent: The Redd Kross Story, Karen Carpenter: Starvi

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