PATH TO FREEDOM: MUSIC ON FILM
Curated by Pamela Cohn
I lied when I said I was done. I knew I wasn’t done.
–Kathleen Hanna, The Punk Singer
In 2008, DokuFest added a concurrent music festival called DokuNights. All of the live shows have been packed to overflowing since its inception and thousands of young people from all over the region flock to Prizren every summer to listen to their favorite local and international bands and DJs, greeting the songs they’ve come to consider personal ballads with joyful cheers and manic dancing until dawn, gleefully singing along, knowing every single word to every single song.
As in previous years, we once again present a spotlight program on music makers and the filmmakers who document their stories of unstoppable dreams, no matter how highly the odds are stacked. Oftentimes, they’re stacked pretty damned high. This year, it’s all about the DIY dream, every subject in this selection taking on the world without any compromises whatsoever.
A group of friends from the slums of Cairo living in the margins of the cultural revolution that recently swept over their country invents an electrifying version of Arab hip-hop they call Mahraganat in Hind Meddeb’s Electro Chaabi. After nearly 40 years of an extremely brutal war, peace and reconstruction are slowly arriving in Angola. In Huambo, Angola’s second largest city, 55 war orphans stay in the Okutiuka orphanage under the care of powerful mother figure, Sonia Ferreira. Sonia’s boyfriend, Wilker Flores, is a death metal guitarist who uses the sounds and rhythms of his music as a path to healing in Jeremy Xido’s exhilarating film, Death Metal Angola. It is his dream to stage the country’s first-ever national rock concert, bringing together members from various strands of the Angolan hardcore music scene from the surrounding provinces.
The unstoppable Zivan Pujic – aka Jimmy –lives in a small village on the outskirts of Belgrade, Serbia with his mother. In Ognjen Glavonic’s super lo-fi Zivan Pravi Pank Festival, Jimmy intrepidly launches the sixth edition of his punk rock festival that will go “international” that year since one of the bands is from Slovakia. Much is missing, including an audience, but no matter – Glavonic presents an exceedingly affectionate and profound portrait of Zivan that gains in depth as the story unfolds.
In Ben Rivers’ and Ben Russell’s exquisitely cinematic film, A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness, we join an unnamed man first on his journey to join a 15-person collective on a small Estonian island; then, in isolation in the majestic wilderness of Northern Finland; and, finally at a black metal concert in Norway. Starring musician Robert AA Lowe, the film resides in a psychedelic and otherworldly realm, a journey into transcendence, both physical and spiritual.
Kathleen Hanna is the eponymous star at the center of Sini Anderson’s documentary, The Punk Singer. Hanna spent her youth from various stages spitting hard truths about sexual abuse to a roomful of captivated young women. Using VHS-era archive footage interspersed with commentary from female rock icons such as Joan Jett and Kim Gordon, as well as an intimate first-person portrait of Hanna herself, the film is equal parts music autobiography, punk rock history lesson, and feminist manifesto.
We also meet musicians who have crossed the divide to international fame and fortune, a dream that comes with its own challenges. Tom Berninger’s Mistaken for Strangers is a story of sibling rivalry and brotherly love as laugh-out-loud farce. This is far from a mere backstage look at the renowned American indie-rock band, The National. Brothers Matt and Tom attempt to lessen the gulf between them partly created by one’s success and the other’s countless failures. But there is deep love between the brothers and neither of them would ever consider abandoning the other.
With electrifying live concert performances, director Florian Habicht presents a lush and irreverent homecoming for Jarvis Cocker and his band in Pulp: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets. Pulp found international fame in the 1990s with anthems such as “Common People” and “Disco 2000.” Twenty-five years and 10 million album sales later, they return to their hometown of Sheffield for their final UK concert. Habicht weaves the band’s ponderings with dream-like tableaux featuring everyday citizens of Sheffield. One proudly wears a T-shirt that proclaims: “I am a common person so fuck you.”
And lastly, we present the decades-long saga of the Carter / Cash dynasty in Beth Harrington’s The Winding Stream: The Carters, the Cashes and the Course of Country Music. Beginning with the seminal Original Carter Family, the film traces the ebb and flow of their influence, the marital alliance between June Carter and the legendary Johnny Cash, and the efforts of the present-day family to keep their legacy alive. As one of the Carters’ most famous songs attests: Let the Circle Be Unbroken.
By Pamela Cohn
The full slate of films will be announced on July 24th on our website.
PHOTO: Still from Pulp: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets by Florian Habicht
Trailer PATH TO FREEDOM: MUSIC ON FILM