10 Music Documentaries You Need to See in 2013


We were fascinated to read a rare interview with former Cream and Blind Faith drummer and notorious rock ‘n’ roll lunatic Ginger Baker in the Guardian over the weekend. The interview was a propos of a new documentary about Baker, Beware of Mr. Baker, which premiered at last year’s SXSW and is now on general release. Reading about the film got us thinking about the many promising music documentaries that are due out in 2013. Here’s what’s on our to-see list — it looks like it’s going to be a pretty great year as far as music-related viewing goes.

Beware of Mr Baker

We guess this is technically a 2012 documentary, but it’s still out now, so we’re still going to include it, especially since it’s been getting universally good reviews. By all accounts, Baker still makes Keith Moon look like the shy and retiring type, and we rather admire filmmaker Jay Bulger’s cojones for essaying the task of making a film about him (and for sticking with it after Baker assaulted him with a walking stick, as documented in the above trailer.)

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

Frankly, we’re amazed this took as long as it did. This documentary about Russia’s most famous 21st-century dissidents is co-directed by Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin, and promises “fantastic” access to the band. It’s due to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. More information here — there’s no trailer yet.

The Drop

A film about “The EDM Culture Explosion,” otherwise known as America (re-)discovering MDMA and dance music a decade after the rest of the world. But carping aside, this could be interesting so long as it doesn’t fall into the sensationalist traps that many films about rave culture tend to do — the delayed commercialization of both the music and the drugs in America is an interesting topic, as is quite how dubstep evolved from a moody, London-centric 2-step/dub hybrid into the arena-filling sound purveyed by Skrillex et al.

Danny Says

This documentary on former Ramones manager/Stooges discoverer/thoroughly lovely chap Danny Fields hit its Kickstarter goal late last year, and as per the Kickstarter page, best estimate is that it’ll be premiering in the fall. We can’t wait to see it — Fields is a fascinating character who has been involved with all sorts of epochal musical endeavors over the years, as the above trailer makes clear.

The Resurrection of Victor Jara

The story of theater director, poet, and singer Victor Jara was just one of the many harrowing and awful tales to come out of the 1973 CIA-sponsored coup that ousted Salvador Allende in Chile and installed right-wing dictator and best-friend-of-Margaret-Thatcher Augusto Pinochet in his place. Jara was one of thousands of prisoners incarcerated in Santiago’s sports stadium, where he was tortured (including having his hands broken, after which his tormentors mockingly suggested he play guitar) and murdered. This film promises to “chronicle courageous efforts led by [Jara’s] widow Joan to return [him] to cultural life in Chile” and also to “explore his profound impact on artists, activists, and musicians of all ages inside and outside Chile.” Bravo. More information here.

A Life in the Death of Joe Meek

Also on the sad stories front, this documentary about British record producer Joe Meek has been in production for most of the last decade, and is due to finally arrive in 2013. Meek is a fascinating and sad character, producing a heap of fantastic albums in the 1960s (including, amongst others, this personal favorite), but dying in tragic circumstances in 1967 — he shot his landlady and then himself, having suffered from depression and also been blackmailed because of his homosexuality, which was illegal in Britain at the time. This is another Kickstarter-funded project, and it hit its funding goal in October 2012 — there’s lots more about the project on its Kickstarter page.

Sound City

Dave Grohl’s directorial debut, this film chronicles the history of the now-defunct Sound City studio in Los Angeles, the place where Nevermind was recorded. It’s due to premiere at the Sundance Festival, and its soundtrack album apparently features a track by Grohl, Pat Smear, Krist Novoselic, and their new mate Paul McCartney.

Twenty Feet from Stardom

Another upcoming Sundance premiere, this documentary promises to provide an examination of the world of the backup singer: “Their voices bring harmony to the biggest bands in popular music, but we’ve had no idea these singers are or what lives they lead, until now.” We have no idea who any of the backup singers on which the film focuses actually are, but the idea certainly sounds interesting, and as per IMDb, the film features interviews with Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, and various others. There’s a bit more info at Indiewire.

The Death and Resurrection Show

From what we can gather, this Killing Joke documentary has been in production for a while — its website promises “coming in 2012!”, while other stuff about it on the Internet dates back as far as 2009. The latest update on the film’s Facebook page “guarantees” a 2013 release, which is good enough for us — and we can’t wait to see what the filmmakers come up with, because a definitive history of one of the UK’s most endearingly and enduringly strange and awesome bands is long, long overdue.

An as-yet-unnamed One Direction documentary…

…directed by Morgan “Super Size Me” Spurlock. In 3D. Yeah, we’re intrigued.