The story of Amy Winehouse in her own words, featuring unseen archival footage and unheard tracks. Amy won the 2016 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Amy Winehouse’s immediate family were initially willing to work with the film’s producers and director, having heard about the success of their earlier documentary, Senna (2010). They granted the filmmakers access to hours of archive footage of Amy and her family, as well as giving the filmmakers’ their blessing to interview Amy’s family and friends. However, they – in particular, Amy’s father, Mitch Winehouse – soon began to feel they were being misrepresented in the documentary, that the negative aspects of Amy’s life were receiving much more attention than the positive, and that footage had been edited in order to produce an inaccurate narrative of Amy’s story, especially the last three years of her life.
Backup singers live in a world that lies just beyond the spotlight. Their voices bring harmony to the biggest bands in popular music, but we’ve had no idea who these singers are or what lives they lead, until now. Read more at IMDB or support this site and the filmmaker by buying it at Amazon.
Neil Young returns to his birth Canadian province of Ontario to revisit his old haunts and to perform in Toronto’s vintage Massey Hall. By Jonathan Demme
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The world fell in love with Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová when their songwriting collaboration in the film Once culminated in a jubilant Oscar win. But behind the scenes, where Glen and Mar’s on-screen romance became reality, a grueling two-year world tour threatens to fracture their fated bond. Gorgeously filmed in black and white, this music-filled documentary is an intimate look at the exhilaration and turmoil created by both love and fame. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
The life and work of the enigmatic folk rock singer-songwriter. Read more at IMDB or support this site and the filmmaker by buying it at Amazon.
A 3-D presentation of U2’s global “Vertigo” tour. Shot at seven different shows, this production employs the greatest number of 3-D cameras ever used for a single project. Read more at IMDB or support this site and the filmmaker by buying it at Amazon.
Academy Award-nominated director Scott Hicks (“Shine”) documents an eventful year in the career and personal life of distinguished Western classical composer Philip Glass as he interacts with a number of friends and collaborators, who include Chuck Close, Ravi Shankar, and Martin Scorsese. Read more at IMDB or support this site and the filmmaker by buying it at Amazon.
Be Here to Love Me – Chronicles the fascinating and often turbulent life of Townes Van Zandt. Read more at IMDB or support this site and the filmmaker by buying it at Amazon.
Following in the deeply idiosyncratic footsteps of Last Days, About a Son plays more like autobiography than documentary. Gus Van Sant’s feature extrapolates moments from the life of Kurt Cobain (with Michael Pitt as a musician named Blake), while A.J. Schnack’s non-fiction film adheres closer to the facts, but advances a more radical Koyaanisqatsi-like approach. First off, Cobain supplies the narration, but the filmmaker avoids pictures of the alternative icon until the end. (He culled the voice-over from interviews conducted by author Michael Azerrad for Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana.) Beyond-the-grave narration isn’t a new concept–see Tupac: Resurrection–but Schnack (Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns) ups the ante by excluding talking heads, concert footage, and other staples of the genre. Instead, he uses still and time-lapse photography to explore Cobain’s Northwest, i.e. Aberdeen, Olympia, and Seattle.
A documentary which explores the connections among sound, rhythm, time, and the body by following percussionist Evelyn Glennie, who is nearly deaf. Read more at IMDB or support this site and the filmmaker by buying it at Amazon.
Documentary on the deaths of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls and the East Coast/West Coast, hip-hop/rap rivalry that culminated in late 1996 and early 1997. Read more at IMDB or support this site and the filmmaker by buying it at Amazon.
Watching a Nick Broomfield documentary (Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam) makes one not just want to shower, but to scrub oneself raw like Meryl Streep did in Silkwood. Going where even the tabloids fear to tread, the controversial Kurt & Courtney could also be called Courtney and Me. Investigating the apparent suicide of grunge icon Cobain, Broomfield runs into a formidable obstacle, namely Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love. She blocked permission for him to use any of Cobain’s music and ultimately got the film yanked from the Sundance Film Festival. Can’t really blame her, as Broomfield follows the lead of a motley crew of conspiracy theorists, grudge-carrying former boyfriends, and estranged parents who suggest that Cobain was actually murdered at Love’s behest.
In the mid 1990s, rock music was desperately in need of a post-grunge banner carrier, and English bands such as Oasis and Radiohead seemed to be the benefactors of that anticipation. And so it happened, in 1997, that Radiohead recorded arguably the most important album of the decade. “OK Computer” was a stunning soundscape that resonated throughout the world of rock music. Here was an inspired and talented band stepping into the unknown, remaking itself and sounding completely fresh, adventurous, and dense with layers and dynamics. It was almost unanimously lauded and even revered as perhaps one of the great rock albums of all time.
Originally filmed in December 1968, “The Rock and Roll Circus” was originally intended to be released as a television special. The special was filmed over two nights and featured not only the Rolling Stones but The Who, Jethro Tull (with future Black Sabbath guitarist Tommy Iommi filling in for the recently departed Mick Abrahams), Marianne Faithful and an all-star jam featuring John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Mitch Mitchell. Sadly, this also marked the final appearance of the Stones founder and original guiding light, Brian Jones, who would be dead within six months after filming the special. Read more at IMDB or support this site and the filmmaker by buying it at Amazon.
A documentary about the inventor of the first electronic synthesiser instrument and his subsequent life after he was abducted by the KGB as well as a history of his instrument. Read more at IMDB or support this site and the filmmaker by buying it at Amazon.
Jimi Hendrix’s landmark concert in Monterey County Fairgrounds in California in which he plays signature songs like “Purple Haze,” “Foxy Lady,” and “Wild Thing.” By D.A. Pennebaker
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From the early black and white days to their colourful hedonistic era, you will Rock! See them at their most creative, and destructive, and experience The Who: Here! Read more at IMDB or support this site and the filmmaker by buying it at Amazon.
ABBA, the international music sensation of the ’70s, is captured on tour by director Lasse Hallstrom in this lighthearted look at the lives of pop stars. The mega-hits performed include “Dancing Queen” and “S.O.S.” Read more at IMDB or support this site and the filmmaker by buying it at Amazon.
This 1970 concert documentary captures Elvis Presley midway through a fateful transition, seeking to reclaim his musical primacy after a decade of self-imposed exile from concert stages. Sidelined by his big-screen career, eclipsed by rock’s mid-’60s transformations, the King had begun his return two years earlier with the relatively lean attack of his fabled network television appearance, ’68 Comeback Special. Now the Memphis legend was poised to reposition his performing profile by pursuing the top rungs of headliner status in Las Vegas, a career choice that seems even more ephemeral in hindsight than it already did at the time. Elvis: That’s the Way It Is follows the show’s genesis from rehearsal to stage, with the performance footage that provides its inevitable climax shot over six nights. The rehearsal footage, expanded for this special edition, offers further proof that Presley’s band was simply superb: stripped of the orchestrations and lush choral arrangements that would be grafted onto the stage show, the sextet sounds both tough and nimble.
Godard’s documentation of late 1960’s western counter-culture, examining the Black Panthers, referring to works by LeRoi Jones and Eldridge Cleaver. Other notable subjects are the role of the media, the mediated image, A growing technocratic society, Womens Liberation, the May revolt in France and the power of language. Cutting between 3 major scenes, including the Rolling Stones in the studio, the film is visually intercut with Eve Democracy (Wiazemsky) using graffiti which amalgamates organisations, corporations and ideologies. Godard also examines the role of the revolutionary within western culture. Although he believes western culture needs to be destroyed, it can only be done so by the rejection of intellectualisation.
The first great rock concert documentary by the filmmaker who invented the form. D.A. Pennebaker (who teamed up with Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles, and other filmmakers here), fresh off his Bob Dylan documentary, Don’t Look Back, captured the music and scene of the first real rock & roll festival. The Monterey Pop Festival of 1967, which laid the groundwork for Woodstock two years later, offered an amazing array of talent that was absolutely of that moment. And, as the intervening years have shown, this music stood the test of time: from the young Janis Joplin blowing the crowd away with “Ball and Chain” to an instrument-smashing performance by the Who to the surprisingly soul-stirring showing by Otis Redding. One particular highlight: the American debut of a little-known rock trio called the Jimi Hendrix Experience, which knocked the crowd out of its seats with a guitar sound that had never been heard before–and culminated with Hendrix setting his guitar ablaze and worshipping the flaming feedback.
Documentary covering Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of England, which includes appearances by Joan Baez and Donovan. Read more at IMDB or support this site and the filmmaker by buying it at Amazon.
A documentary feature chronicling the history of two New York icons and the journey that brought them together for the last musical performance at Shea Stadium. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
A compilation of interviews, rehearsals and backstage footage of Michael Jackson as he prepared for his series of sold-out shows in London. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
A look at how contestants on the a musical contest program “Pop Idol” in Afghanistan risk their lives to appear on the show. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
Martin Scorsese and the Rolling Stones unite in “Shine A Light,” a look at The Rolling Stones.” Scorcese filmed the Stones over a two-day period at the intimate Beacon Theater in New York City in fall 2006. Cinematographers capture the raw energy of the legendary band. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
A film crew follows the well-known banjo player Bela Fleck on his travels to Africa, where he learns about the instrument’s origins. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
A documentary on the electric guitar from the point of view of three significant rock musicians: the Edge, Jimmy Page and Jack White. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
At 14, best friends Robb Reiner and Lips made a pact to rock together forever. Their band, Anvil, hailed as the “demi-gods of Canadian metal, ” influenced a musical generation that includes Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax, despite never hitting the big time. Following a calamitous European tour, Lips and Robb, now in their fifties, set off to record their 13th album in one last attempt to fulfill their boyhood dreams.
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Documents the true story of the final weeks of rehearsal for the Young at Heart Chorus in Northampton, MA, whose average age is 81, and many of whom must overcome health adversities to participate. Their music is unexpected, going against the stereotype of their age group, performing songs, for example, by James Brown, and Sonic Youth. Although they have toured Europe and sang for royalty, this account focuses on preparing new songs, not an easy endeavor, for a concert in their home town, which succeeds in spite of several real heart breaking events. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
In the summer of 2006, Sigur Rós returned home to play a series of free, unannounced concerts for the people of Iceland. This film documents their already legendary tour with intimate reflections from the band and a handful of new acoustic performances. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
A documentary on the life of John Lennon, with a focus on the time in his life when he transformed from a musician into an antiwar activist. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
It’s time to rock and roll – air guitar style. AIR GUITAR NATION is the feature documentary about the year that air guitar swept America. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
Dave Chappelle presents a Brooklyn neighborhood with its very own once-in-a-lifetime free block party. In addition to Chappelle, the roster of artists includes Kanye West, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Dead Prez, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, the Roots, Cody ChesnuTT, Big Daddy Kane, and – reunited for their first performance in over seven years – the Fugees. Includes private rehearsals footage and Chappelle in the small Ohio town he calls home, where he wanders through town handing out golden tickets to invite several dozen citizens to join the party, providing transportation and lodging for their visit to Brooklyn. Ohio’s Central State University marching band makes the trip and kicks off the festivities at the intersection of Quincy and Downing Streets. A diverse crowd and Chappelle’s freestyle wit guides them (and us) through a celebration of music and comedy, history and community.
Portrait of an artist as a young man. Roughly chronological, using archival footage intercut with recent interviews, a story takes shape of Bob Dylan’s (b. 1941) coming of age from 1961 to 1966 as a singer, songwriter, performer, and star. He takes from others singing styles, chord changes, and rare records. He keeps moving on stage, around New York City and on tour, from Suze Rotolo to Joan Baez and on, from songs of topical witness to songs of raucous independence, from folk to rock.
Tracks the tumultuous rise of two talented musicians, Anton Newcombe, leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre; and Courtney Taylor, leader of the Dandy Warhols; dissecting their star-crossed friendship and bitter rivalry. Both are hell-bent on staging a self-proclaimed revolution of the music industry. Through their loves and obsessions, gigs and recordings, arrests and death threats, uppers and downers–and ultimately to their chance at a piece of the profit-driven music business–how each handles his stab at success is where the relationship frays and burns. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
In the summer of 1970, a chartered train crossed Canada carrying some of the world’s greatest rock bands. The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, Buddy Guy, and others lived (and partied) together for five days, stopping in major cities along the way to play live concerts. Their journey was filmed. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
In 1959, Berry Gordy Jr. gathered the best musicians from Detroit’s thriving jazz and blues scene to begin cutting songs for his new record company. Over a fourteen year period they were the heartbeat on every hit from Motown’s Detroit era. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
A feature-length documentary film about hip-hop DJing, otherwise known as turntablism. From the South Bronx in the 1970s to San Francisco now, the world’s best scratchers, beat-diggers, party-rockers, and producers wax poetic on beats, breaks, battles, and the infinite possibilities of vinyl. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
A documentary about the punk band The Sex Pistols. The film tries to lit some of the backgrounds of their way through the punk era while telling the story of the band from zero back to zero. Features lots of interviews and comments of folks who were involved. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
A group of legendary Cuban musicians, some as old as their nineties, were brought together by Ry Cooder to record a CD. In this film, we see and hear some of the songs being recorded in Havana. There is also footage from concerts in Amsterdam and New York City’s Carnegie Hall. In addition, many of the individual musicians talk about their lives in Cuba and about how they got started in music. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
San Francisco bluesman and composer, Paul Peña makes a musical pilgrimage to the land of Tuva. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
A collection of vignettes highlighting different aspects of the life, work, and character of the acclaimed Canadian classical pianist. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
Winner of the Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature and lauded by the San Francisco Chronicle as “wonderfully funny yet equally heart-rending,” IN THE SHADOW OF THE STARS is a hilarious and affectionate look at the path to stardom inside the competitive world of opera. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
This “biography” evolves around the nearly 240 hours of film and videotape fortuitously taken by Lennon of his life. The archive footage is transformed into a fascinating life story of one of the most complex and fascinating men of the modern music era. This effort includes a 36 song soundtrack. Includes some very personal and insightful footage, never before made available to the public. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
Thanksgiving, 1976, San Francisco’s Winterland the Band performs its last concert after 16 years on the road. Some numbers they do alone, some songs include guest artists from Ronnie Hawkins (their first boss, when they were the Hawks) to Bob Dylan (their last, when as his backup and as a solo group, they came into their own). Scorsese’s camera explores the interactions onstage in the making of music. Offstage, he interviews the Band’s five members, focusing on the nature of life on the road. The friendships, the harmonies, the hijinks, and the wear and tear add up to a last waltz.
MGM musical numbers from the introduction of sound in the late ’20s through to the 1950s, possibly with Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Judy Garland getting the most coverage. Linked by some of the stars who worked at MGM handing the commentary on one to another. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
An intimate look at the Woodstock Music & Art Festival held in Bethel, NY in 1969, from preparation through cleanup, with historic access to insiders, blistering concert footage, and portraits of the concertgoers; negative and positive aspects are shown, from drug use by performers to naked fans sliding in the mud, from the collapse of the fences by the unexpected hordes to the surreal arrival of National Guard helicopters with food and medical assistance for the impromptu city of 500,000. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Company” opened on Broadway in the Spring of 1970, and tradition dictates that the cast recording is done on the first Sunday after opening night. D.A. Pennebaker, the now-legendary documentarian, filmed the production of the original cast recording, the back and forth between Sondheim and the performers, and the dynamic of trying to record live performance. The film climaxes with Elaine Stritch’s performance of “The Ladies Who Lunch”. The show won 6 Tony Awards including “Best Musical” and ran for two years on Broadway. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
In December of 1969, four months after Woodstock, the Rolling Stones and Jefferson Airplane gave a free concert in Northern California, east of Oakland at Altamont Speedway. About 300,000 people came, and the organizers put Hell’s Angels in charge of security around the stage. Armed with pool cues and knifes, Angels spent the concert beating up spectators, killing at least one. The film intercuts performances, violence, Grace Slick and Mick Jagger’s attempts to cool things down, close-ups of young listeners (dancing, drugged, or suffering Angel shock), and a look at the Stones later as they watch concert footage and reflect on what happened. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.
Documentary covering Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of England, which includes appearances by Joan Baez and Donovan. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.