Annual music film festival Raindance is making a pit stop at this year’s Great Escape festival in Brighton with three screenings – Big Gold Dream: Scottish Post-Punk And Infiltrating The Mainstream, Suede: Night Thoughts (pictured) and Sleaford Mods: Invisible Britain, see Greatescapefestival.com for details and tickets. They are also organising a short film competition around the festival, so organiser Elliot Grove, has written us a column on what makes a great rock’n’roll film.
Music documentaries have been a staple of the Raindance Film Festival since 1993 – and we’ve programmed some terrific ones. Some of the most successful screenings have been music docs. Over the past 25 years, I’ve seen so many, I’ve come to appreciate what makes a truly great music documentary.
We’ve seen docs about famous bands or musicians turned down by our programming team. Why? It needs to be about a form or music or a type of musician who’s interesting. Although the subject matter might well known, the documentary misses a special angle, dooming it to failure. Any movie, fiction or documentary alike – needs a twist, or an angle that makes the audience think wow. And that doesn’t mean they have to have huge budgets. If a music doc breaks filmmaking traditions, we will show it. Remember that Searching For Sugarman was shot on a simple cell phone. Yet the sound was great, the editing and subject matter fascinating. Result? An Oscar winner!
We, the music loving audience, want to be taken by the director to a place where we’ve never been before and show us something that we can take to enrich our own lives. Show us warts and wounds. Show us what it’s really like. For instance at the 2015 Raindance festival, we screened Sumé: The Sound of A Revolution about the first rock band that sang in Greenlandic and the uproar that caused in Denmark -and it kept me on the edge of my seat.
At their core, music documentaries need to tell us a compelling, engaging story. Never mind endless shots of concerts and backstage hoopla. Show us the emotion. Take us with you back stage. Show us the ups and down, the peaks and valleys. The Nick Cave documentary 20,000 Days On Earth and it was all the rage at SXSW and was nominated for a BAFTA. Create a rollercoaster for us music lovers to really enjoy. Entertain us.
Most importantly, whether its the new kid on the block, an ageing musical icon, or a Scandinavian accordionist playing underwater (yes we had such a documentary, Soundbreaker, at Raindance in 2012) the music needs to be great. It’s a movie, and you can get in really close, or show us the long shot. A music doc not only shows us musicians in a way we’d never see in a concert, it plays us sound with these wonderful pictures – which can and should make terrific music to watch and listen to.
For more – and to enter the competition – head to Raindance.org.