Stop Making Sense, 14 nights of live music top Milwaukee Film’s 2013 “Sound Vision,” “Soundtrack” programs
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Like peanut butter and jelly or Jake and The Fatman, film and music compliment each other—and, in many cases, can’t live without each other. Recognizing this intrinsic relationship, Milwaukee Film has put together yet another stellar lineup for its music documentary program, “Sound Vision,” and its live music series at The Hotel Foster, “Soundtrack.”
The 2013 Milwaukee Film Festival, which runs September 26-October 10, will feature eight music docs, including Jonathan Demme’s stone-cold classic Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense. “We have been screening music documentaries since day one of the Milwaukee Film Festival, but last year was the first time we pulled them together into their own program, ‘Sound Vision’,” says artistic and executive director Jonathan Jackson in a press release. “Milwaukee’s music community didn’t let us down—the films were incredibly well-attended. I’m really looking forward to screening my all-time personal favorite, Stop Making Sense, alongside the rest of these varied, soon-to-be classic music docs.”
The “Soundtrack” series, meanwhile, will feature live music at The Hotel Foster every night of the festival (except Opening Night), including performances from such Milwaukee favorites as The Delphines, The Championship, The Delta Routine, Vic And Gab, Young Holidays, and more. “We couldn’t ask for better partners to work with than Johnny Revord and Doug Williams,” says marketing director Blyth Meier in the same press release. “In addition to owning what has quickly become one of the city’s best music venues, they’re incredible film nerds. And with programming assistance this year from WMSE’s Promotions Director Ryan Schleicher, they’ve pulled together an outstanding line-up. I’m looking forward to dancing every night after the we shut down the projectors.”
The full lineup for both programs is below, complete with synopses courtesy of Milwaukee Film:
Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius Of James Booker
He toured with Aretha Franklin, recorded with Little Richard and mentored a young Harry Connick Jr.; yet despite his standing in the New Orleans jazz scene, James Booker, the self-described “Black Liberace,” remains mostly unknown. That won’t long be the case with Bayou Maharajah, an incisive look at the man Dr. John called “the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced.” Using never-before-seen concert footage, director Lily Keber has crafted a joyous yet unsparing look at a man whose wild imagination and destructive appetites found their only outlet in his virtuoso piano playing.
Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me
In the early ’70s, alternative rock forefathers Big Star released three albums that, while critically acclaimed, disappeared due to poor record sales. As decades passed, their legend grew, influencing such rock luminaries as R.E.M., The Flaming Lips and Wilco, while seeing all three albums land on the Rolling Stone top-500-of-all-time list. Even with this renaissance, their amazing story has never been properly told until now. It’s a moving portrait of what is arguably rock music's greatest cult phenomenon, a group nearly forgotten despite having left such a massive imprint on the rock ’n’ roll landscape.
For the eight young men who comprise the joyful and bombastic Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, brotherhood is literal: They're all sons of anti-establishment jazz legend Phil Cohran. Raised on a steady diet of jazz and funk crossed with Black Consciousness on Chicago's South Side, this jazz cooperative has moved from busking on the streets to collaborating with Mos Def and opening for Prince. This coming-of-age doc is filled with their unremittingly unique brand of music and showcases their struggle to maintain the values they were raised on when confronted with the promise of record deals and musical stardom.
Enzo Avitabile Music Life
Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme returns to the success of Stop Making Sense with this documentary spotlight on a lesser-known quantity to Americans, Italian multi-instrumentalist Enzo Avitabile. Taking a fly-on-the-wall approach to Enzo’s musical process and life story (doubling as a gorgeous portrait of Naples in the process), the film is host to remarkable jam sessions between the versatile Avitabile and a collection of amazing world music talents all performing sonic wizardry on rare and bizarre instruments native to their home countries. It’s a fascinating look at a remarkable life, filled to the brim with unforgettable musical moments.
The Girls In The Band
An award-winning look at the untold stories of female jazz and big band instrumentalists and the uphill climb they faced just to be heard, The Girls In The Band shines an entertaining light on women cast to the margins of jazz history. Subject to punishing sexism and racism, these women powered through all obstacles with good humor, steadfast determination and musical mastery as their guide. This long-overdue celebration showcases their groundbreaking journeys from the late ’30s all the way to today (influencing contemporaries such as Grammy-winner Esperanza Spalding) in a “real crowd-pleaser” that “may prompt a rewrite of jazz history” (Robert Koehler, Variety).
“Free Bird,” “I’ll Take You There,” “Brown Sugar”—the tiny Alabama town of Muscle Shoals is home to these and many more hit records that shaped the course of popular music. This rousing doc takes a look at the people (Rick Hall and “The Swampers,” his genius rhythm section) behind the town’s sound, whose legendary FAME studio became a creative oasis where talent trumped skin color in an age and state where segregation ruled the day. Jagger, Aretha, Simon and Bono all lend their voices to a documentary that showcases the lasting power of the Muscle Shoals sound.
In Ciudad Juarez, thousands of homicide cases overtax the crime scene units as drug cartels slowly tilt the system’s odds in their favor. Meanwhile, across the border, nestled in the safe embrace of El Paso, Texas, musicians work feverishly to meet growing demand for narco-corridos, waltz-like ballads that lionize the blood-soaked escapades of traffickers and kingpins (who play them over police radio channels in the wake of their violent acts) idolized for having escaped poverty and squalor. Cutting between these disparate scenes and showcasing a largely unknown counterculture taking hold across both borders, director Shaul Schwarz examines how a calamitous lifestyle remains so appealing as Narco Cultura continues to grow.
Stop Making Sense
Only the greatest concert film ever made, Jonathan Demme’s stunning collaboration with Talking Heads is a high-energy spectacle that gathers momentum throughout, allowing us to get swept up in the boundless energy of charismatic frontman David “Don’t Touch Me, I’m a Real Live Wire” Byrne. Demme smartly trains his camera on the performers, allowing the band’s kinetic performance to rule the day in an environment where eminently danceable tunes coexist alongside ingenious stagecraft. A must-see for fans of concert films, this 35 mm screening is a “Once in a Lifetime” experience of a towering achievement liable to leave MFF audiences dancing in the aisles.
“Soundtrack” at The Hotel Foster:
Friday, Sept. 27: Fable & The World Flat / Catacombz / Dogs In Ecstasy
Saturday, Sept. 28: Le Freak ft. Asher Diamonds / Slim Brit / Shakylegs / Video Villains / Special Guests
Sunday, Sept. 29: Aluar Pearls / Kiings
Monday, Sept. 30: The Delphines / Heartthrob
Tuesday, Oct. 1: The Living Statues / The Gazettiers
Wednesday, Oct. 2: The Championship / Mark Waldoch
Thursday, Oct. 3: Cream City After-Party ft. Asher Diamonds / Why B
Friday, Oct. 4: Painted Caves / Marcus Doucette (DJ Set)
Saturday, Oct. 5: Midwest Death Rattle / Soul Low / Oedipus Tex
Sunday, Oct. 6: The Delta Routine / Train Company / Hero Jr.
Monday, Oct. 7: Kyle Feerick / The Vitrolum Republic / Ivy Spokes
Tuesday, Oct. 8: Vic And Gab / Young Holidays / Young Holidays (DJ Set ft. Special Guests)
Wednesday, Oct. 9: Calliope / Castle Thunder / We Are Your Father
Thursday, Oct. 10: Fever Marlene / Jayk