Toil in subcult obscurity long enough, and ye shall be rewarded with…your very own documentary! (Of course, you might have to die first.) Hollywood has splashed out on many a musical biopic, and has often been handsomely rewarded for it. So it’s only fitting that indie filmmakers are giving the decidedly more low-budget treatment to underground artists. And with or without Jamie Foxx, they’ve still got stories worth telling.
THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON
Selected festival showings, wider release in late 2005
Jeff Feuerzeig’s Sundance-award-winning doc examines the frequently institutionalized singer-songwriter, whose plaintive compositions made him a hero to fans like Beck and Kurt Cobain. ”His work is so direct,” Feuerzeig says admiringly of his subject, to whom he had full access. ”Because of his manic depression, there are no filters — it’s just raw emotion.”
NEW YORK DOLL
Projected release date late 2005
Another 2005 Sundance premiere, Greg Whiteley’s doc had a most unlikely impetus. The then grad student met the Dolls’ lanky bassist, Arthur ”Killer” Kane, at a Mormon church in L.A. ”I would notice a guy sitting in the back, and we became friends,” he explains simply. ”Arthur became the first person I home-taught at this congregation.” What followed took them both by surprise.
WE JAM ECONO: THE STORY OF THE MINUTEMEN
Premiered Feb. 25 in the band’s hometown of San Pedro, Calif. Soon to be released in select cities
Tim Irwin traces the seminal SoCal punks’ brief arc, from their 1980 inception through singer D. Boone’s death in 1985. How did he get members of Fugazi, Black Flag, Sonic Youth, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to appear? ”People were incredibly helpful, and I couldn’t believe how much they wanted to be a part of it,” Irwin recalls. ”I think it testifies to the fact that there’s something pretty special about the Minutemen.”
YOU THINK YOU REALLY KNOW ME: THE GARY WILSON STORY
Screening in selected cities, distribution pending
An appreciative look at the jazz-punk antihero whose 1977 epic, home-recorded with his band the Blind Dates, gives the film its title. Filmmaker Michael Wolk picks up the search for the long-lost misfit, returning to his upstate New York hometown, where, he says, ”Even after a couple decades, people really remembered him. I mean, how many other guys wore a tuxedo and walked their pet duck through the center of town?”
TOWNES VAN ZANDT: BE HERE TO LOVE ME
July 29, 2005 (Palm Pictures)
Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Steve Earle are all on hand to remember the troubled folkie who died in 1997 at age 52. Van Zandt, according to director Margaret Brown, ”basically decided to give everything up to pursue music. This is about the rewards, and also the fallout, of that decision.”