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Backbeat: Music on Film

Generally unheralded at the time, the early 80s, hardcore punk rock scene in America gave birth to much of the rock music and culture that followed. There would be no Nirvana, Beastie Boys or Red Hot Chili Peppers if not for hardcore pioneers such as Black Flag, Bad Brains and Minor Threat. ... Read more
To satisfy his curiosity, a teenaged Townes Van Zandt leaned back over a balcony, falling four floors to the ground below. This is the man who was declared a songwriting genius by the likes of Steve Earle, and it signals the nihilism and psychic pain that shaped his life and his music. Born to ... Read more
Beyond Beats and Rhymes is a provocative documentary that skewers hip-hop's dominant sexual politics. Fronted by filmmaker Byron Hurt, this film was originally conceived as a “loving critique” from a self-proclaimed “hip-hop head” but soon became a take-no-prisoners assault on the hypocrisy ... Read more
A steady diet of amphetamines has left The Holy Modal Rounders' co-founder Peter Stampfel with a nervous, Woody Allen manner that drives his partner in crime, Steve Weber, crazy. Stampfel gave away drugs in the late 1970s and Weber plans to quit any day now. When Weber goes AWOL for more than a ... Read more
According to Kurt Cobain, Daniel Johnston was the greatest songwriter on earth. Musician, cult outsider artist and manic depressive, Daniel Johnston's wild behavioural fluctuations, downward-spirals and delusions of grandeur have ensured that he remains an enigma to the music industry, but to ... Read more
One record producer... The creators of the cult film and stage classic Hedwig and the Angry Inch... and some of the most influential indie rockers... They all come together to record a benefit album for a controversial high school in New York City supporting lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and ... Read more
This lively documentary uses pristine archival footage to portray an ebullient story of musical metamorphosis - from the synagogue choirs of darkest Russia to Harlem hotspots, Tin Pan Alley, Broadway and eventually the bright lights of Hollywood. Some 2.5 million Jews fled persecution in Russia and ... Read more
One weekend in November 1971, blues freak Link Wyler and his buddies from the Gunsmoke television crew gave in to temptation... They bolted to Hollywood during a production hiatus to film blues legends Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton, Big Joe Turner and George “Harmonica” Smith who were then ... Read more
As country music's first superstar, and perhaps its most influential artist, there's much to celebrate in the legend of Hank Williams. But his life was also tremendously tragic, with the trials and heartaches that resounded through his life and music only ending with his premature death, aged 29 ... Read more
This is a vivid and complex history of New York's art-punk and No Wave scene of the late 70s and early 80s. It also seeks that creative legacy in the current crop of Big Apple brats. Members of DNA, Swans, Foetus, 8-Eyed Spy and Suicide line up alongside Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, Lydia Lunch ... Read more
[The Last of the First] is the story of some of the last living jazz pioneers from the 1920s and 30s, a unique group of musicians who still perform as the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band. ... This filmic journey, which unfolds over four years, accompanies these musicians from recording studios and ... Read more
Alan Lomax devoted his entire life to recording music in danger of disappearing. For six decades he travelled tirelessly, documenting blues, bluegrass, jazz, Appalachian and Cajun music for the Archive of Folksong at the Library of Congress. Lomax made some of the earliest recordings of Muddy ... Read more
Combining punk-influenced rock with a distinctive surf sound and fronted by the off-beat vocals of Black Francis, the Pixies' eclectic style heavily influenced the alternative rock explosion of the 90s. Kurt Cobain even cited the band as the inspiration for Nirvana's signature tune, Smells Like ... Read more
The floppy fringe of the Human League's Phil Oakey, one-note analogue synthesisers, cold, futuristic melodies and even colder stares of studied indifference: welcome to Sheffield at the dawn of the 80s. From the Dadaist electronic abstractions of Cabaret Voltaire and Clock DVA to the chart-topping ... Read more
The roots of the 1990s' grunge phenomenon lay in the melding of punk and metal into the stadium-meets-CBGB styling of bands such as Malfunkshun, Green River and Mother Love Bone. Andrew Wood, charismatic vocalist and haunting lyricist for Mother Love Bone, died in 1990 after a heroin overdose. His ... Read more
“Strong enough to make believers out of non-metalheads, and inside enough to get the devil's-horns salute from the most diehard followers.” - Variety Headbanger-turned-anthropologist Sam Dunn acts as the on-screen guide for this testiment to an often-vilified subculture. Digging under the ... Read more
Backed by a massive sound system pulsing with peak-volume bass beats, Mr Catra's sex and crime obsessed music speaks about life in the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro and ongoing wars with criminal gangs and police. His lyrics are so explicit that the Brazilian police have coined the term 'Funk ... Read more
“New Orleans is like a body without a spirit. The music itself is the spirit.” - Robert Mugge, filmmaker Hurricane Katrina and its chaotic aftermath devastated the legendary New Orleans music community. Noted music documentarian Robert Mugge creates an emotional portrait of horror, heartbreak ... Read more
If the catchcry 'fun, chaos and sleaze' announced the raucous arrival of the New York Dolls in 1972, then the title of their second album, [Too Much Too Soon], was a fitting epitaph to their demise. A combination of Iggy Pop's anarchy, Lou Reed's streetwise brutality and more than a pinch of ... Read more
Since the Ramones' first frenetic gigs at New York's CBGBs and the Sex Pistols' infamous performance on the Thames, reverberations from the punk rock explosion have been rocking the world, moving beyond the music to influence fashion and spawn entire subcultures. ... But, almost 30 years later ... Read more
What is punk' Don Letts - filmmaker, London punk scene veteran, infamous DJ at The Roxy and member of Big Audio Dynamite - has created a documentary capturing the essence of punk rock. The film includes interviews with more or less everyone who's still alive who had an impact on the movement that ... Read more
Life-affirming in its message, The Refugee All Stars introduces a hardy group of six Sierra Leonean musicians who form a band while living as refugees in the Republic of Guinea. Forced from their homes by a brutal, decade-long civil war, these musicians find solace through music, despite harbouring ... Read more
“Wu-Tang Clan ain't nuthin' to f**k with…” Festival producer Chang Weisberg, the personification of independent hip-hop's DIY spirit, puts everything on the line for his impossible dream of reuniting notorious no-shows The Wu-Tang Clan for their first gig in years. Furiously paced and ... Read more
"It takes chutzpah to call a pic [Screaming Masterpiece], however tongue-in-cheek it's intended, but as director Ari Alexander Ergis Magnusson's flag-waving documentary proves, Icelanders are not short on self-belief. The film explores how this tiny nation has managed to produce not only exportable ... Read more
"I dropped into the Ten O'Clock Scholar, a Beat coffeehouse. I was looking for players with kindred spirits. John Koerner was tall and thin with a look of perpetual amusement on his face. We hit it off right away... he was soft spoken, but when he sang he became a field holler shouter. Koerner was ... Read more
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