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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Movies that rock

VH1 claims to show movies that rock, but \Grease"" and made-for-television Jacksons are not really movies about music. For the past two years the Sound Unseen Music and Film Festival has shown 40 underground movies and documentaries. This year the Minneapolis festival is going on a seven city tour with six movies as the Sound Unseen Roadtrip. The tour's first stop is the Barrymore Theatre, 2090 Atwood Ave., in Madison on April 23-25.  




Nate Johnson started the festival after he noticed a rise in independent music films and documentaries.  




""People are making documentaries partly due to digital video ... but also people that are making films are in bands and bands are getting cameras to make movies,"" Johnson said.  




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Sound Unseen welcomes all types of music related moves, but do not expect popular commercial classics like ""The Wall"" or ""Quadrophenia."" These films are independent and for the most part deal with underground music.  




According to Johnson, the six films being shown on the Roadtrip are of ""the best variety and the strongest of past screenings."" These films range from punk to reggae to hip-hop to good ol' '90s alternative rock. ""Westway to the World"" tells the complete history of the Clash through previously unseen footage and new interviews with the band. ""Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme"" is a special advance screening before its nationwide release.  




Filmed over seven years, ""Freestyle"" documents the story of hip-hop from its beginnings by southern Gospel preachers up to today's open mics. ""American Astronaut"" is not really a film about music, but rather a film by musicians. Billed as the first ""sci-fi Western musical set in outer space,"" this narrative feature stars Cory McAbee of the band The Billy Nayer Show.  




The plot sounds like a Barberella spin-off with McAbee playing an intergalactic trader traveling across the universe to provide the all-female populated Venus with a worthwhile male. The 1978 feature Rockers is presented here in a rare 35mm print. This reggae film examines the Kingston, Jamaica ghetto and the musicians who struggle there.  




""Graceful Swans of Never: The Smashing Pumpkins"" is a new documentary that takes a more personal look at the band than an episode of ""Behind the Music"" would. Told through interviews from bandmates Billy Corgan, James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlain as well as record execs and club owners, the film focuses on all stages of the band'from its humble Chicago beginnings through their rock 'n' roll cliches of drug abuse, short lived reunions and breakups.  




The 25-minute documentary ""Punking Out"" is shown with ""Graceful Swans of Never."" The short is about the famed CBGB club in New York and features performances and interviews by The Dead Boys, CBGB owner Hilly Kristal and the most famous band to emerge from the club, The Ramones. Though this is the first year of the Roadtrip, Johnson thinks it will work well because of the dual appeal to both film and movie fans. The limited releases of these movies are another good selling point.  




""[These movies] you normally can't see in a move theater or otherwise. For most of the films it's either on tour or you're not going to see it again,"" Johnson said.

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