Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014

Milwaukee Film Festival Announces Sound Vision Lineup

By Evan Rytlewski
take me to the river
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Two of the great newer additions to the Milwaukee Film Festival have been its Sound Vision music documentary series and the festival's corresponding post-screening music series at Hotel Foster, Soundtrack. Today the festival revealed the lineups for both. This year's Sound Vision series features documentaries on Nick Cave, Fela Kuti and The Mekons, as well as films about the gender-neutral singer-songwriter Rae Spoon and the Memphis soul scene. The inevitable highlight, of course, will almost certainly be the encore screening of Jonathan Demme's Talking Heads documentary Stop Making Sense, which had audiences on their feet doing jerky David Byrne dances at its showing last year.

The Sound Vision lineup is below, with film descriptions courtesy of the festival, followed by the Soundtrack lineup, which once again features some of the local music scene's biggest draws.
 
My Prairie Home
(Canada / 2013 / Director: Chelsea McMullan)
Trailer
Simultaneously a look into the life of transgender singer-songwriter Rae Spoon (who uses the gender-neutral pronoun "they") as well as a celebration of the categorization-defying music they create (fusing folk, country, indie rock, and electronica), My Prairie Home is a truly original portrait of a true original. We follow Rae as they travel across Canada on tour, revealing the evangelical upbringing and forbidden first love that marked their early life intermingled with playfully surreal music videos set at prom or among the dinosaurs in a natural history museum. This documentary is as unique and untraditional as the performer it aims to capture.
 
Finding Fela
(USA / 2014 / Director: Alex Gibney)
Trailer
Fela Kuti: musical pioneer, postcolonial activist, polyrhythmic innovator. Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney (Audience award-winner Mea Maxima Culpa, MFF 2012) sifts through the contradictions and presents a complex portrait of a man whose artistic legacy is nearly matched by his political activism. Alongside a backstage portrait of "Fela!," an energetic Broadway show with Bill T. Jones devoted to exploring the life of this Afrobeat pioneer, we discover a man who realized the revolutionary potential that music offered through mesmerizing performance footage and revealing archival interviews. We see Fela warts and all, a man whose work in all aspects of life endures.
 
20,000 Days on Earth
(United Kingdom / 2014 / Directors: Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard)
Trailer
Poet/musician/general enigma Nick Cave aims to lay his creative process bare with this stick of cinematic dynamite blowing up any and all rockumentary conventions. 20,000 Days on Earth takes the form of a loosely staged single day in the life of this cult musician. This hallucinatory blend of documentary and fiction features a therapy session and sudden reappearances of friends from his past (Ray Winstone, Kylie Minogue) alongside a primordial, blistering live performance. For neophytes and diehards alike, this exploration of Cave's life and music is every bit up to the task of providing a portrait as dynamic and engaging as its subject matter.
 
This May Be the Last Time
(USA / 2014 / Director: Sterlin Harjo)
Trailer
A probing examination of a personal history as well as an expansive portrait of cultural expression, This May Be the Last Time lifts the veil on the power of song and storytelling among an American-Indian tribe through the prism of a mysterious disappearance that took place some 60 years prior. Filmmaker Sterlin Harjo re-examines his grandfather's disappearance while focusing on the tribal hymns sung by the search parties that looked for him, beautiful music filled with hope and forgiveness born out of past tumult. Harjo traces these ancient songs back through time, illuminating a surprising genealogy of cultural influence whose borders expand far beyond that of his southeastern tribe.
 
The Ballad of Shovels and Rope
(USA / 2014 / Director: Jace Freeman)
Trailer
This foot-stomping, heartwarming journey follows Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, the husband-and-wife folk duo known as Shovels and Rope, as they pack their belongings (along with their beloved dog Townes Van Zandt) into their van and begin a relentless tour in support of their dreams. The Ballad of Shovels and Rope tracks the creation of their critically acclaimed album “O' Be Joyful,” following this loving couple's journey from waitress and studio artist to award-winning musical artists, stopping at all of the dive bars and nightclubs along the way and showing the hard work, creativity, and ingenuity that will make you fall in love with this amazing duo.
 
Revenge of The Mekons
(USA / 2013 / Director: Joe Angio)
Trailer
Once described by Lester Bangs as "the most revolutionary group in the history of rock ’n’ roll," genre-bending British outfit The Mekons are now four decades into an ever-evolving career that has netted them endless critical acclaim despite their pursuit of commercial success—success that has constantly eluded them, though this rollicking documentary portrait aims to correct that cultural wrong. With the aid of effusive supporters (Jonathan Franzen, Fred Armisen, Luc Sante), we examine this group as they traverse from their punk rock origins in Thatcher-era England to their current middle age in the vanguard of what is now known as alt-country without ever losing sight of their status as political provocateurs.

Take Me to the River

(USA / 2014 / Director: Martin Shore)
Trailer
An ode to an unprecedented era of creativity, Take Me to the River is a soul-stirring examination of the influence that Memphis and Stax Records held over the music world, a must-see for fans of Muscle Shoals and the Oscar-winning 20 Feet From Stardom. In this film, produced by Talking Heads member Jerry Harrison, we're granted access to the creative process behind a new album (featuring artists such as Snoop Dogg and Mavis Staples) looking to continue the proud intergenerational and interracial influence of the Memphis music scene, an exuberant celebration of the grooves that stand in defiance of segregation and show the power of creative collaboration toward realizing this utopian ideal.

Stop Making Sense
(USA / 1984 / Director: Jonathan Demme)
Trailer
To celebrate its 30th anniversary, Jonathan Demme's essential concert film returns to the festival after a run last year that had our audience literally dancing in the aisles. Filmed over the course of two performances, this epic documentary of The Talking Heads, their live-wire frontman David Byrne, and Milwaukee's own Jerry Harrison is as exuberant a portrait of the live concert experience as we're ever likely to have on the big screen. Gaining momentum as though the performance is rocketing downhill, this film will be once again the can't-miss experience of the festival.

And here's the Soundtrack lineup at Hotel Foster. All shows are free with a festival pass or a stub from the same day's screenings; otherwise cover is $5.

Friday, Sept. 26
The Championship
 
Saturday, Sept. 27
Le Freak
 
Sunday, Sept. 28
TBA
 
Tuesday, Sept. 30
Webster X
Soul Low
Bliss & Alice

Wednesday, Oct. 1

Aluar Pearls
Bumbac Joe
 
Thursday, Oct. 2
Wax Addicts (DJ)
Myles Coyne
 
Friday, Oct. 3
GGOOLLDD
Rio Turbo
Color Numbers
 
Saturday, Oct. 4
Castle Thunder
 
Sunday, Oct. 5
Space Raft
Mark Waldoch
 
Tuesday, Oct. 7
Whips
Pile
Party Unlimited LLC (Andy Silverman DJ Set)

Wednesday, Oct. 8

Jayk
 
Thursday, Oct. 9
UniFi Records: Mixtape
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