Some incredible and unique things happen in the twin cities, and the annual Sound Unseen film festival is among my favorites. A film festival dedicated to music movies (not to be confused with musicals) is right up my alley. The 9th iteration of the festival got underway last night with a pair of screenings at the Riverview Theater. Tonight, the festival moves over to the St. Anthony Main theater, and there’s no shortage of excellent programming.
Here are a few recommendations:
Sonic Youth: Sleeping Nights Awake – I’ve been waiting for this one for quite a while, and finally caught up with it last night. It’s showing again this evening. It’s basically a SY concert film interspresed with interviews with the band. The project came out of a program in Reno, Nevada called Project Moonshine that basically teaches teens how to make moves. Sleeping Nights Awake was entirely shot by the kids in the program, and they put together a pretty great film. It caught up with the band on the Rather Ripped tour, and they sound fantastic. There’s an amazing performance of “Shaking Hell” that shouldn’t be missed.
Sigur Ros: Heima – If you’re a fan of the band, this one is a bit of a no-brainer. This documentary follows the band on a tour of their native Iceland in which they played free shows as a thank you to their homeland and fans. They set up in deserted factories, expansive fields, and
virtually anywhere they could be had. The music is sublime, and the film paints a beautiful portrait of the Iceland that roots Sigur Ros’ sound. It’s as much about the landscape as the music. It’s incredibly well done from all perspectives.
Low: You May Need a Murderer – I think I’ve seen three different docs on Low at this point, and this one is clearly the best. Low’s music is there, but the real interest here is that the filmmaker caught the normally introverted Alan Sparhawk at his most open and generous. It gets into the core of what Low’s music comes out of. Sparhawk offers insight to own battles with mental illness and addiction, and goes deeper into their family life and religion. Its honesty is refreshing and goes to really heartbreaking places.
Dead Man – This one’s not necessarily a music film, but the movie is forever connected to the score by Neil Young, thus fits in very nicely with the festival. That said, who cares. Any reason to bring this film back to a cinema screen is fine with me. It’s easily my favortite Jarmusch film, and the experience of seeing it projected on a big screen from a 35mm print is unparalelled. Do not miss this chance.
Rust Never Sleeps – Following Dead Man, this is an excellent second half to a rare Neil Young double feature. I was able to preview this print, what might be the only 35mm print left of this film, with Sound Unseen director Rick Hansen, and it’s a treat. They don’t make concert films (or live records) like this anymore, and it’s a shame. It captures a full Neil Young show from a stop on his 1978 tour. The set is half solo acoustic and half electric with Crazy Horse and features a crew of dancing jawa stagehands.
There are a bunch of other great programs as well. The festival covers a wide musical spectrum and offers something for everyone. Check it out, and support one of the most unique and innovative film festivals around.