Ferocious Joy

Dig SXSW Music films

In Austin especially, music and film go together like, to quote Oasis, cigarettes and alcohol. From Richard Linklater's The School of Rock and Robert Rodriguez doing his own film scores to Stephen Bruton's BVD scene in Alan Rudolph's 1984 Willie Nelson/Kris Kristofferson vehicle, Songwriter, the Live Music Capital of the World and the New Film Capital of the Southwest draw ever closer to becoming one DVD.

Accordingly, the SXSW Film Festival takes its music films seriously, premiering documentaries big (D.A. Pennebaker's Down From the Mountain) and small (Jonathan Demme's Storefront Hitchcock), and featuring all comers in between (Scratch). This year is no different. From the inspiring Clifford Antone doc, Antone's: Home of the Blues, to the unforgettable Brian Jonestown Massacre/Dandy Warhols odyssey Dig!, this year's music programming at SXSW Film will be the first time and not the last you hear about these cinematic platters.



D: Ondi Timoner; with Anton Newcombe, Joel Gion, Matt Hollywood, Jeff Davies, Peter Haines, Courtney Taylor, Peter Holmstrom, Zia McCabe, Eric Hedford. (90 min., DV) "Until they can write the letter that I am writing, they are the postman, and I am the letter-writer," says Anton Newcombe about record labels at the beginning of his tumultuous musical career. Newcombe is the madman behind the Brian Jonestown Massacre, whose love-hate relationship with Portland, Ore., psychedelic popsters the Dandy Warhols is the heart of this sometimes harrowing (heroin) portrait of indie culture and its mid-Nineties move into the corporate arena. While Newcombe booster Courtney Taylor and his Dandys headline British festivals, BJM is destroyed by inner turmoil, even as Newcombe perseveres. As real and grimy as any evening at Emo's.

Five Sides of a Coin

D: Paul Kell; with Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Gil Scott-Heron, Biz Markie, Michael Franti, Jurassic 5, Mix Master Mike. (70 min., DV) "The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple," begins Paul Kell's ambitious tale of hip-hop. Starting in the Bronx, first-time filmmaker Kell wades through the effects hip-hop has had on the entire world; the graffiti and dancing; the MCs, DJs, and beatboxers behind the tracks; and concerns with where hip-hop is going and what this country's youth is learning from it. Five Sides sets out to prove that hip-hop is in the bloodstream of America, and through interviews with members of the Universal Zulu Nation, the Rock Steady Crew, and throngs of scratchin' DJs, Kell drops the hip-hop science on the masses.
Clifford Antone
Clifford Antone (Photo By John Carrico)

Antone's: Home of the Blues

D: Dan Karlok; with Clifford Antone, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Marcia Ball, Jimmie Vaughan, Willie Nelson, Derek O'Brien, Angela Strehli, Lou Ann Barton. (102 min., DV) "It's not a building; Antone's is definitely a state of mind," explains Marcia Ball at the beginning of Dan Karlok's lovingly accomplished doc. Ever since Clifford Antone moved to Austin in the early Seventies, he's all but defined blues in this town. Through archival footage and a wealth of interviews with everyone from Buddy Guy and B.B. King to Bob Schneider, Karlok lends the club and its namesake the same weight as the music itself. Muddy Waters, Eddie Taylor, Albert Collins, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Angela Strehli, Hubert Sumlin – they're all here. Better still, the relative absence of Clifford's other half, sister Susan Antone, leaves the door open for a sequel.

A Night of Ferocious Joy

D: David Zeiger; with Saul Williams, Jerry Quickley, Ozomatli, the Coup, Blackalicious, East L.A. Sabor Factory, Dilated Peoples. (75 min., DV) On Mother's Day 2002, West Coast hip-hop artists, slam poets, visual artists, and speakers gathered to tell George W. Bush that he couldn't wage war on the innocent. The first anti-war concert after 9/11, A Night of Ferocious Joy captures the Latin rhythms, hip-hop beats, and spoken word that came together as one voice. Director David Zeiger concentrates on concert footage, breaking only for back-alley interviews and greenroom conversations with the artists.

270 Miles From Graceland: Bonnaroo 2003

D: Danny Clinch; with the Dead, the Flaming Lips, the Polyphonic Spree, Widespread Panic, My Morning Jacket, Sonic Youth, James Brown. (130 min., 35mm & DV) It's no Woodstock '69, but Bonnaroo 2003 was one hell of a rock/jam/jazz/hip-hop festival. The Flaming Lips brought out the bunny suits, and the Polyphonic Spree went to church. Sonic Youth rocked, and the Dead rolled. And all is captured on the many cameras of Danny Clinch's crew. More than two hours of concert and backstage footage is highlighted by stunning visuals. Providing comic relief are the fans interviewed between acts. Despite pouring rain and unbearable heat, Clinch captures the festival euphoria.

Mayor of the Sunset Strip

D: George Hickenlooper; with Rodney Bingenheimer, Kim Wilson, Alice Cooper, Cher, Chris Martin, David Bowie. (60 min., DV) "Rodney Bingenheimer has always been heartbreaking," says fellow KROQ deejay Jed the Fish about the legendary star-maker. L.A.'s Bingenheimer was the first to put David Bowie on the radio. He was the first to play the Sex Pistols, Oasis, and Coldplay. He acted as Davy Jones' double on The Monkees, and he hung out with the most famous celebrities. Yet no one today knows who Rodney Bingenheimer is, and few even care. However, if the Mayor of the Sunset Strip never was, the music of the Seventies would have sounded much different. Famous in his own right, filmmaker George Hickenlooper (The Man From Elysian Fields) follows Bingenheimer from his apartment in Los Angeles all the way to England, where sadness and loneliness mix with self-realization to mold the man who once ruled the ROQ.
Billy Joe Shaver
Billy Joe Shaver (Photo By John Carrico)

The Portrait of Billy Joe

D: Luciana Pedraza; with Billy Joe Shaver, Brenda Shaver, Dale Watson, Jessie Taylor. (53 min., DV) The man strums guitar with the only two fingers on his right hand. He lives alone after his wife lost the battle to cancer and his son to drugs. He isn't famous, and he doesn't have his health. "I've got a four-way bypass, a pipe in my neck, three discs taken out," he says. "I'm doin' all right, though." Indeed, Billy Joe Shaver is still going strong. Luciana Pedraza's doc paints a picture of a Texas boy growing up in hard times, living even harder, and then finding himself – and Jesus – before it was too late. An Austin treasure, a Lone Star songwriting legend, and a country music institution, Shaver deserves this doc, which Pedraza aces.

Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8

D: Michael McNamara; with Rosalie Trombley, Alice Cooper, Les Garland, Lee Marshall, Ted "The Bear" Richards, Dick Smyth. (72 min., 35mm) As Los Angeles' KROQ radio was getting warmed up in the early Sixties, Windsor, Ontario's CKLW was taking over the world one wave at a time. Across the river from the Motor City, the Big 8 was bred by deejays whose love of rock & roll far outweighed greed or fame. Michael McNamara's edutainment escapade is just as much about the music as it is about the radio station that once was. Even though rockers like Alice Cooper and Bob Seger owed allegiance to the Big 8, CKLW was a victim of government intrusion. However, "Ladies and gentlemen, the beat goes on."

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

D: Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky; with James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo, Jason Newsted, Dave Mustaine, Phil Towle. (135 min., 35mm & DV) Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky met Metallica in 1996 while finishing the HBO documentary Paradise Lost, about the West Memphis Three, three boys convicted of murder. Metallica licensed the filmmakers a song, without fee – the first time the band had ever done so. Now, it's their turn to face the camera. After bassist Jason Newsted quit, Metallica hired therapist Phil Towle to help them work through problems while recording their first studio album in six years, St. Anger. Berlinger and Sinofsky never flinched through fights and disappointment, as well as James Hetfield's admission into rehab. Their cameras captured every conversation, every scowl, and every comment. And, yes, Lars is just as childish as we thought.

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