Reel Time

If you’re like me, winter means some long nights kicking back and catching up on some movies. But I’m not really an Avatar kind of nerd, so no flying blue people in my disc player please.

But I do love movies about music. I have a small collection of rockumentaries and musical biopics on my DVD shelf, because I love finding out about different genres and the cultures that gave birth to them; I’m enthralled by the rise and fall of famous (and not so famous) rock bands; I puzzle over the meticulous creation of old and new technologies; I’m intrigued by forgotten geniuses; and always mystified by the highly individual, yet intensely collaborative process of making music.

Usually I can’t find that many kinds of music films in the local theaters or video stores, so I turn to the magic of the internet. If you’ve exhausted your instant play queue on Netflix, try this site called SNAG FILMS, which hosts and streams a decent library of documentary films on its site.

They have a section dedicated to music docs RIGHT HERE, which includes Sundance winner, Dig!, “a classic story of rock ‘n’ roll genius and self-destruction”; a film about the turbulent life story of cult musician Townes Van Zant called Be Here to Love Me; and another movie called  Off the Charts: The Song Poem Story, in which ordinary folks send their funny and weird poems to companies who will set them to music.

Here are some other music docs I’ve seen recently, which might inspire you to fire up Pandora (not the Avatar planet!) and turn your speakers up to 11.

1. Who is Harry Nilsson and Why is Everybody Talking About Him?“A wildly entertaining, star-studded documentary about The Beatles’s favorite American musician, WHO IS HARRY NILSSON (AND WHY IS EVERYBODY TALKIN’ ABOUT HIM)? is a vibrant and definitive portrait of one of the most talented singer-songwriters in pop music history.”

2. I Bring What I Love “Shot over two years and across three continents. Following the Grammy-winning African icon as he releases his album, EGYPT, a best-selling record in which, for the first time, Ndour sings about Islam. Upon release in Senegal, the album was considered blasphemous, bringing Ndour, perhaps the most popular Muslim artist in the world, face to face with the contradictions of his own religion.”

3. Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts“For 18 months award-winning director Scott Hicks followed the legendary composer Philip Glass across three continents, creating a remarkable portrait of one of the greatest artists of all time.”

4. Note by Note: The Making of Steinway #L1037“Note By Note” is a feature-length independent documentary that follows the creation of a Steinway concert grand, #L1037— from forest floor to concert hall. It explores the relationship between musician and instrument, chronicles the manufacturing process, and illustrates what makes each Steinway unique in this age of mass production.”

5. Touch the Sound“Evelyn Glennie is a Grammy-winning classical percussionist whose solo work is unrivalled. She is also profoundly deaf. For Evelyn, sound is palpable and rhythm is the basis of everything. Without vibration, there is nothing. From silence to music, sound is felt through every sense in our bodies.”


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