Reel Music, the NW Film Center's annual celebration of music on film, turns 32 this fall, and the lineup has just been announced. It's a wide-ranging selection that's documentary-heavy, with films about jazz bassists, sax players, punk-rock venues, gospel musicians and—because why not?—Christmas music.
The opening-night film is Heaven Adores You, the Kickstarter-funded documentary about Elliott Smith (catch the first few minutes below). Other notable titles: 20,000 Days on Earth, a documentary about Nick Cave that won a directing prize at Sundance; Time is Illmatic, about the making of Nas' LP; shoegaze doc Beautiful Noise; and Strictly Sacred: The Story of Girl Trouble, which recounts the story of the Tacoma garage-rock band.
The fest also shines the spotlight on a few locals: Portlander Lance Bangs will screen Breadcrumb Trail, his documentary about Slint (read our Q&A with Bangs here), and Vancouver, Wash.-based filmmaker Beth Harrington shows The Winding Stream, about the Carter Family (we ran a Q&A with her, too). There are also some throwbacks, including Portland-based director Todd Haynes' Velvet Goldmine, Jonathan Demme's 1984 Talking Heads concert movie Stop Making Sense and a newly restored version of Nosferatu with an original electronic score by Tom Peters.
The festival runs Oct. 10-22. The full lineup is below. All screenings are at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium unless otherwise noted.
OCT 10 12 FRI 7 PM SUN 12PM—VISITING ARTIST
HEAVEN ADORES YOU
DIRECTOR: NICKOLAS ROSSI
When Portland singer/songwriter Elliott Smith died in 2003, it left a gaping hole in the indie rock community throughout the country. Smith, best known for the Academy Award®–nominated song “Miss Misery” from the GOOD WILL HUNTING soundtrack, was a trail- blazer for Portland’s indie rock scene in the ‘90s and later in New York and Los Angeles as he followed his creative explorations. Director Nickolas Rossi unites Smith’s sister, former band mates, his ex-girlfriend and collaborator Joanna Bolme, Kill Rock Stars’ Slim Moon and more for the first authorized Smith documentary, and in so doing shares new discoveries: previously unheard songs, unseen personal pictures and rare performance footage. What results is an elegant, heartfelt tribute to a gifted songwriter and his pro- found legacy. (104 mins.) Director Nickolas Rossi will be in attendance.
OCT 11 SAT 4:30 PM
DIRECTOR: RETO CADUFF
Music legends don’t come any more unassuming than Charlie Haden. Courtesy of Reto Caduff’s charming documentary, we discover that the affable jazz bassist’s underlying honesty and decency inform every note of his music. As Haden camps out in a studio to revisit the country music of his youth, he reflects on his rural roots and his debut crooning twangy ballads on the radio at the age of two. Through wondrous archival footage and enlightening interviews, Caduff leads us through the next six decades, detailing Haden’s seminal collaborations with legends like Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane, as well as his ongoing projects such as Quartet West and Liberation Music Orchestra. Just as Haden’s simple playing style masks an innate understanding of the complexities of melody and composition, so too does his placid exterior disguise a deep-seated passion that manifests itself in his art, relationships, and politics. (89 mins.)
OCT 11 SAT 7PM
THE WINDING STREAM
DIRECTOR: BETH HARRINGTON, PORTLAND
“THE WINDING STREAM begins at the source of what we know as classic country music—the original Carter Family from the Appalachian foothills. Unlikely superstars, A.P., Sara, and Maybelle Carter had their first success on the radio in the late 1920s. Maybelle brought up the next generation (Anita, June, and Helen) and they toured as Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters in the 1960s and ‘70s, influencing much of the folk revival. When June Carter married Johnny Cash, their combined family kept the musical legacy flourishing. George Jones, Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, Kris Kristofferson, and many others cite the influence of what began as a small mountain stream and ended up a worldwide ocean.”—Film Society of Lincoln Cen- ter. (90 mins.) Portland director Beth Harrington will be in attendance.
OCT 11 SAT 9:30 PM
TIME IS ILLMATIC
Multimedia artist One9’s follows the trajectory of Nas’ 1994 landmark debut album, Illmatic, one of the most important and revolutionary albums in hip-hop. Twenty years after its release, Illmatic is widely recognized as a hip-hop benchmark that captured the sociopolitical outlook, enduring spirit and collective angst of a generation of young artists searching for their voice in America. Tracing Nas’ influences from the music of his jazz musician father, Olu Dara, to the burgeoning hip-hop scene in his native Queens- bridge, TIME IS ILLMATIC describes the almost insurmountable obstacles overcome in a personal journey from young street poet to a visionary MC. “Brisk, stylish and extremely heartfelt.” —Variety. (74 mins.)
OCT 12 SUN 2:15 PM
THE 78 PROJECT MOVIE
DIRECTOR: ALEX STEYERMARK
The 78 PROJECT MOVIE is a road trip across America to make one-of-a-kind 78 rpm records with musicians in their hometowns using a 1930s Presto direct-to- disc recorder—one microphone, one blank disc, one 3-minute take. Along the way, a kaleidoscope of technologists, historians and craftsmen—Grammy- winning producers, 78 collectors, curators from the Library of Congress and Smithsonian—provide insights and history. From Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana to California, folk singers, punk rockers, Gospel and Cajun singers share their lives through intimate performances, and find in that adventure a new connection to our cultural legacy. (95 mins.)
OCT 12 SUN 4:30 PM
THE CASE OF THE
DIRECTOR: ADAM KAHAN
Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1935-1977) was more than a blind musician who could play three horns at once, more than one of the most exciting and amazing sax players who ever lived. Beyond the ability to play multiple melodies at the same time, he was also a warrior against racial injustice and a tireless campaigner for a wider appreciation of jazz in American society. Packed with electrifying archival footage of Kirk and his music, Kahan’s film is an absorbing look at the man who wouldn’t even let partial paralysis keep him from pursuing what he called “the religion of dreams.” (87 mins.)
OCT 12 SUN 7PM
20,000 DAYS ON EARTH
GREAT BRITAIN 2014
DIRECTOR: IAIN FORSYTH, JANE POLLARD
An inventive ode to creativity, 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH fuses drama and reality by weaving the journey of a fictional day in Nick Cave’s life, giving us a window into his creative process through staged, but not scripted scenes and encounters as well as more traditional footage of his rehearsals and performances. In the world of the Australian musician, songwriter, and occasional film actor, the mundane gives way to the fantastic and a coterie of surprising and engaging collaborators who offer revealing glimpses into Cave’s legendary, enigmatic oeuvre. Winner, Best Director prize at the Sundance Film Festival. “This innovative study playfully disguises itself as fiction while more than fulfilling the requirements of a biographical documentary.”—Variety. (97 mins.)
OCT 13 MON 7PM
DIRECTOR: TODD HAYNES, PORTLAND
“This witty, evocative re-creation of the heady days of glam rock is loosely structured on the lines of a CITIZEN KANE-style flashback narrative, with a journalist (Christian Bale) sent back from New York to Britain to investigate, ten years after, the disappearance of Bowie-like star Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) after an onstage assassination is revealed to be a hoax. Partly a film à clef which translates real-life events and personalities into a dazzling fiction, partly an unsentimental celebration of an era of potentially pan-sexual liberation (complete with unexpected but fitting tribute to Oscar Wilde), and partly a Haynesian study of transgression, identity and the gulf be- tween public and private image, it is superbly shot, edited and performed, and exhilaratingly inventive throughout.”—Time Out. (120 mins.) Todd Haynes invited to attend. Co-presented with White Bird, featuring the Michael Clark Company, October 16-18, whose acclaimed piece come, been and gone draws inspiration from glam-era David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Enter code NWFILM at whitebird.com for discounted tickets to the performance.
OCT 14 TUES 7PM
DIRECTOR: LANCE BANGS, PORTLAND
“Even those who haven’t heard Slint have heard Slint. Not only did the band’s members go on to perform with acts as diverse as The Breeders, Tortoise, Inter- pol, Stereolab and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but the cutting, complicated dynamics of their second and final album, 1991’s Spiderland, essentially birthed post-rock. In a riveting study, Portland music clip director and Slint super fan Lance Bangs unearths priceless VHS footage of the gawky teens (some of it shot by Will Oldham) that crafted such elemental and unsettling sounds. And two decades of interviews with members, parents, hangers-on and indie luminaries—including Steve Albini, Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye and Jesus Lizard’s David Yow—reveal their influence...Bangs has turned in without a doubt the best film he’s ever made.”– Tiny Mix Tapes. (90 mins.) Director Lance Bangs invited to attend.
OCT 14 TUES 9PM
AND THE BAKERSFIELD SOUND
DIRECTOR: WILLIAM J. SAUNDERS
Billy Mize was instrumental in defining the Bakers- field Sound, the exhilarating, innovative movement that both changed country music and influenced everyone from Elvis and The Beatles to The Grateful Dead. A gifted musician and songwriter, Mize was also a committed family man and the rare artist who traded fame for home. Mize’s little-known story, full of triumph and tragedy, along with a fascinating his- tory of the Bakersfield sound, is brought to light with wonderful archival footage, rare photos, interviews, and a soundtrack of Bakersfield hits with country leg- ends like Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Willie Nelson, Ray Price and Mize himself. (100 mins.)
OCT 15 18 WED 7PM SAT 4:30PM
DIRECTOR: DANIEL SCHMID
Giuseppe Verdi called it his “finest work”: the world’s first home for retired opera musicians. Standing in Milan since 1896, the Casa Verdi is home to a collection of self-described “drama queens,” aging artists who sing, perform, and reflect together. Their reflections offer a touching and often hilarious meditation on aging and the power and timeless capacity of music to inspire. “Insightful, life-affirming, and just plain entertaining!”—Christian Science Monitor. (87 mins.)
OCT 15 WED 9PM
THE BYRD WHO FLEW ALONE: THE TRIUMPHS AND TRAGEDY
OF GENE CLARK
GREAT BRITAIN 2013
DIRECTORS: PAUL KENDALL, JACK KENDALL
Bob Dylan described Missouri-born country boy Gene Clark as one of the three best songwriters in the world. The original front man for one of the most iconic and influential bands of the ‘60s, The Byrds, he made records that remain both folk and country rock classics. Yet mysteriously, his public recognition lags far behind that of peers such as Gram Parsons. Since his death in 1991, at 46, artists ranging from Robert Plant to Yo La Tengo have covered his songs and he has been hailed as a key influence to musicians as diverse as Tom Petty, Primal Scream and Fleet Foxes. Drawing on interviews, including fellow Byrds David Crosby and Roger McGuinn, a wealth of great music, and previously unseen archival material, the Kendalls weave a compelling story of musical magic and moving madness. (90 mins.)
OCT 16 THUR 7PM
RAZING THE BAR
DIRECTOR: RYAN WORSLEY, SEATTLE
Loud, messy, and often outrageous, The Funhouse was one of Seattle’s landmark punk rock venues. From 2003 to 2012, the venue offered artists a place to experiment with new musical styles and performance ideas, and quickly became a breeding ground for local talent. Many members of the venue’s com- munity found their way into the Seattle culture at- large, including the then-nascent burlesque move- ment and the Rat City Rollergirls. First-time director Ryan Worsley’s RAZING THE BAR stands as a testament to the creative community that The Funhouse fostered, as well as a warning of what can become lost in the all-consuming quest for urban density. (80 mins.) Director Ryan Worsley in attendance.
OCT 16 THUR 9PM
THE STORY OF GIRL TROUBLE
DIRECTOR: ISAAC OLSEN, TACOMA
Tacoma garage rock band Girl Trouble has always traveled on their own unique and idiosyncratic musical path. For over 30 years, they have been standard- bearers for the collaborative spirit and do-it-yourself aesthetic that the Northwest’s indie rock scene was founded on. Director Isaac Olsen weaves together the band’s treasure trove of treasured memorabilia with present-day interviews with the band’s numerous collaborators, including Neko Case, Calvin Johnson, and Art Chantry. But ultimately, Olsen wisely lets the band members tell the story of their journey from self-proclaimed “weirdos” to Tacoma’s local champions and defenders of rock and roll. (95 mins.) Director Isaac Olsen in attendance.
OCT 17 FRI 7PM
THE BALLAD OF SHOVELS AND ROPE
DIRECTOR: JACE FREEMAN
When filming started, Cary Ann Hearst was waiting tables and Michael Trent was working as a studio artist while the duo also played gigs in dive bars for 15 people. Deeply in love and living the life of poets in South Carolina, they set out with their trusty dog, Townes Van Zandt, to tour out of their van looking to catch a break. The poetry of THE BALLAD OF SHOVELS AND ROPE is written as we watch the rise of an in- credibly talented band and get a rare glimpse into the creation of Shovels & Rope’s album O’ Be Joyful, which went on to earn Artists and Song of the Year awards and a loving following. (72 mins.)
OCT 17 FRI 9PM
STOP MAKING SENSE
DIRECTOR: JONATHAN DEMME
Thirty years after its release, Demme’s extraordinary Talking Heads concert movie, filmed over the course of three days at Hollywood’s historic Pantages Theatre, remains as fresh as ever. With each successive song band members, instruments and set pieces slowly join frontman David Byrne on stage, culminating in a full-blast, high-energy rockout. Featuring performances of “Psycho Killer,” “Take Me to the River,” “Girlfriend Is Better,” and countless other hits by the legendary new wave group, this innovative documentary debut is “close to perfection.”—Pauline Kael, The New Yorker. (88 mins.)
OCT 18 SAT 2PM
LADY BE GOOD:
INSTRUMENTAL WOMEN IN JAZZ
DIRECTOR: KAY RAY, SEATTLE
The International Sweethearts of Rhythm. The Syncoettes. Carol Kaye. The substantial contributions of woman to jazz music have been largely ignored by history, but their significant role is one that can no longer be denied. LADY BE GOOD reveals the lost stories of female jazz musicians from the early 1920s to the 1970s. Ray’s proud film charts the influence of female players from the struggles and successes of early innovators (Sweet Emma Barrett, Lil Hardin- Armstrong), through the rise of the all-woman big bands (Ina Ray Hutton & Her Melodears, the Hollywood Redheads), to the female musicians that were instrumental players (Dorothy Donegan, Mary Osborne) and arrangers (Mary Lou Williams, Melba Liston) for more famous male band leaders, including Benny Goodman and Quincy Jones. (80 mins.) Director Kay Ray in attendance.
OCT 18 SAT 7PM
HARLEM STREET SINGER: THE GUITAR GOSPEL OF REVEREND GARY DAVIS
DIRECTOR: SIMEON HUNTER
One of the truly great American ragtime, blues and gospel musicians, Reverend Gary Davis’ (1896-1972) unique style and virtuoso skill on the guitar made him an icon during the 1960s folk revival and inspired a generation of musicians. HARLEM STREET SINGER celebrates the beauty and spirituality of his North Carolina–bred music as well as the human qualities that made Davis a much beloved teacher and minister. Featuring great performances and interviews with musicians he influenced and taught, including Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane, David Bromberg and Woody Mann. (78 mins.)
OCT 18 SAT 9PM
JOHNNY WINTER: DOWN & DIRTY
DIRECTOR: GREG OLLIVER
Director Greg Olliver spent two years following John- ny Winter to France, Japan and beyond to create this intimate, aptly named portrait of the Texas musician as famed for his sex, drugs and rock & roll lifestyle as his blazing blues guitar. Winter’s recent passing at age 70 recalls not only a storied life—Woodstock, partying with the Rolling Stones and John Belushi, dating Janis Joplin, and jamming with Jimi Hendrix— but fantastic playing and the respect of legends like Muddy Waters, who said: “When I first heard him, I thought he was one of the greatest blues players in the business.” (94 mins.)
OCT 19 SUN 7:30 PM—LIVE PERFORMANCE
DIRECTOR: F.W. MURNAU
We welcome Los Angeles composer and bassist Tom Peters for a live performance of his score for Murnau’s classic adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. The first gothic horror film, and a key work of German expressionism, the film was influenced by Freud’s new ideas of sexual repression. Max Schreck is the gangly, pointy-fingered master of the Carpathian castle who travels by coffin across the sea in search of his love, bringing plague and pestilence with him. Marked by its eerie cinematography and special effects, a constant feeling of anticipation oozes from the ominous symbols, heightened here by Peters’ live electronic score, which weaves through the film’s dark alleys to create an experience like no other. (84 mins.) Tom Peters is a 2014 GRAMMY® Award nominee in the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance category for the recording Cage: The Ten Thousand Things. Special thanks to Walker. Special admission: $12 general; $8 members.
OCT 20 MON 7PM
GREAT BRITAIN 2014
DIRECTOR: ERIC GREEN
“An in-depth exploration of the dense, sensuous, and extremely loud movement in ‘80s/’90s U.K. rock tagged “shoegaze” by the British press. Tracing its influences back to the Cocteau Twins’ ethereal ambiance and the Jesus and Mary Chain’s brash guitar sound, the film explores how bands like My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Lush fused these two disparate sounds together to create a distinctive, new musical style that furthered the genre’s ideals of sonic experimentation without the grandiose stage personas of traditional pop stars. First-time director Eric Green scores a coup by getting this notoriously press-shy bunch to open up about the class politics behind the genre’s poor treatment in the British press, MBV’s infamous falling-out with Creation Records, and how that band became sonic innovators whose music is only now truly receiving its due respect.”—Seattle International Film Festival. (90 mins.)
OCT 20 MON 9PM
JIMMY SCOTT: IF YOU ONLY KNEW
DIRECTOR: MATTHEW BUZZELL
Jazz vocal legend Jimmy Scott’s (1925-2014) distinc-tive voice was able to effortlessly caress high notes in a range that no normal adult male singer should ever expect to reach. But Scott’s vocal range was the result of a hereditary condition that kept his body and voice from developing beyond boyhood. Scott was no mere freak of nature however; his masterful command of his vocal instrument, worldly-wise sense of phrasing a lyric, and breathtakingly dramatic sense of time left critics and fans alike grasping at superlatives for over six decades. This profoundly moving portrait of Scott looks at his personal and professional hardships and eventual triumphs through rare concert footage and interviews with Scott, family, friends, band mates, and scholars. (77 mins.)
OCT 21 TUES 7PM
SOUND OF REDEMPTION: THE FRANK MORGAN STORY
DIRECTOR: N.C. HEIKIN
This soulful documentary illuminates the hell-and- back life of the late, great L.A. alto sax legend Frank Morgan. A prodigy who was acclaimed as the natural heir to his bebop mentor, Charlie Parker, Morgan derailed his career with heroin, which led him into a life of crime. After decades in prison, he made an astonishing comeback, leaving behind recordings of deep, melancholy beauty. Framed by a tribute con- cert held in San Quentin, where Morgan’s 19-year-old Asian-American protégé, Grace Kelly, performs a heart-stopping version of “Over the Rainbow,” N.C. Heikin’s film is filled with revealing interviews with the colleagues, lovers, family and wives who ac- companied Morgan on his long and rocky journey to redemption. (84 mins.)
OCT 21 TUES 9PM
SUPER DUPER ALICE COOPER
DIRECTOR: REGINALD HARKEMA
Born Vincent Furnier, the son of a preacher, Alice Coo- per emerged from the Detroit scene of the 1970s in a flurry of long hair and sequins to restore rock with a sense of showmanship, while simultaneously striking fear into the very core of Middle America with the chicken-slaughtering, dead-baby-eating theatrics that would cement his identity. In an appropriately dizzying stylistic evocation of the Alice Cooper persona, this whirlwind collage of rare archival footage, animation, and candid interviews adds up to the epic sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll saga of a man who got caught in the grip of his own monster. (86 mins.)
OCT 22 WED 7PM
JINGLE BELL ROCKS!
DIRECTOR: MITCHELL KEZIN
Christmas music is sort of a love-it-or-hate-it affair. Whatever your persuasion, however, you’re bound to be caught up in the enthusiasm and discovery of music junkie Mitchell Kezin as he tracks down the stories behind his favorite holiday tunes. Kezin unearths songs—funny, sad, satirical and scathing—that, like rock ’n’ roll itself, are barometers of their times, ad- dressing racial inequality, religious freedom, nuclear war, and being alone. With music and/or appreciations from Schoolhouse Rock creator Bob Dorough, Miles Davis, Calexico, Run-DMC, James Brown, John Waters, Dr. Demento, the Flaming Lips and more, JINGLE BELL ROCKS! guarantees you’ll never listen to Christmas music the same way again. (93 mins.) Director Mitchell Kezin in attendance.