There’s something spot-on about a good film about music. When done right, the marriage of the two forms leads to an end result where the music has enriched the film, and the film has provided an expansion of the music. Films about music have had protagonists ranging from composers to critics; they encompass fiction, nonfiction, and metafiction. Here, for your consideration, are ten upcoming films, from fiction to documentary, from abstract compositions to starkly linear narratives, covering music ranging from punk rock to large-scale choral works.
Strange Powers (Premiering this week at SXSW) A documentary focusing on the literate pop music made by Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields, with testimonials delivered by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Daniel Handler, and Peter Gabriel. Viewers looking to revisit the controversy over Merritt’s stated fondness for the song “Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah” can also do so here.
ODDSAC (Screenings are being held throughout March, with a DVD released on June 29.) A collaboration between Animal Collective and director Danny Perez. The template — acclaimed band makes film with frequent collaborator— recalls the Fugazi/Jem Cohen collaboration Instrument. Given the trailer, however, ODDSAC looks to be as different from that film as Animal Collective’s music is from, well, Fugazi’s.
The Runaways (Opens in limited theatrical release on March 19.) A drama about the LA punk band The Runaways, written and directed by Floria Sigismondi and starring Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, and Michael Shannon.
Ride Rise Roar (Premiering this week at SXSW.) Circa now, David Byrne bridges the gap between acclaimed artist and public intellectual. The last few years have seen him release a book on bicycle culture, create large-scale public art, and release an album of collaborations with Brian Eno. Ride Rise Roar is a document of his tour for that album, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.
The Taqwacores (Festivals, including SXSW.) An adaptation of Michael Muhammed Knight’s cult novel of the same name, focusing on the residents of a Muslim punk house in upstate New York. The novel’s coming-of-age narrative should be a natural fit for adaptation. This is the second film to arise from the novel: a documentary about bands inspired by the book has also been made, and a SXSW panel will bring together the filmmakers behind both.
Complaints Choir (Festivals; the film has also aired on Swedish television.) A pair of Finnish artists, Tellervo & Oliver Kalleinen, have traveled to cities worldwide to set up “Complaint Choirs” — groups which take frustrations ranging from the mundane to the global and make music from them. The project is something of a natural for a documentary and, lo, one has been made.
No One Knows About Persian Cats (Opens theatrically April 16; on demand April 14.) There’s something inherently compelling about DIY artists battling a system that looks to restrict their ability to make art. Films have been made about artists’ quarrels with, say, the government of New York City in the early eighties. Magnify those struggles exponentially and you have No One Knows About Persian Cats, a drama about underground music set in present-day Tehran.
The Three Kings (The DVD will be released along with Dead Meadow’s live album on March 23.) The longstanding Washington, DC-based psych-rock band Dead Meadow went and made a movie to accompany their first live album. The trailer promises hallucinatory desert wanderings and what looks like crime drama in action. It’s probably safe to cite the weirder moments of Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same as a point of reference.
Punk in Africa (Currently in post-production.) A documentary covering punk rock in South Africa, from integrated bands in the early 1970s to the current state of the scene; in doing so, larger questions of national identity are explored.
Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee (March 12th on demand; SXSW) Director Shane Meadows’s 2006 film This Is England boasted a soundtrack that delved deeply into anthemic punk and beguiling reggae. Meadows deployed that soundtrack nimbly, marking him as on of the few directors with a genuine understanding of how to utilize pop music in the larger context of their film. Shot in five days, Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee heads into mockumentary territory, following an aging roadie (Paddy Considine) taking to the road with an MC.