The Discoveries of World Musicians By Sasa Radojevic

in 9th Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival

by Sasa Radojevic

A much loved section of the programme of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival – Images of the 21st Century, is that devoted to Musical Documentaries. New trends in music, biographies of great composers, known and unknown artists, retrospectives and analyses of different musical genres are all featured in the programme.

The audiences favorite film, Kurt Cobain: About a Son (director: A.J. Schnack), is an intimate and moving meditation on the late musician and artist Kurt Cobain. About a Son is based on more than 25 hours of previously unheard interviews conducted with Cobain by music journalist Michael Azerrad for his book Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana. With a soundtrack which includes music by more than 20 artists who influenced or touched Cobain during his life, this is not just a film about the world famous rock star Cobain became in less than a year’s time. Rather, this is a touching portrait of an American boy who grew up in the midst of the wrenching societal and cultural upheavals of the 1970s and 1980s.

In the film Awesome: I Fucking Shot That!, director Nathanial Hornblower included 50 cameras given to audience members for shooting performance band Beastie Boys in New York’s Madison Square Gardens. This isn’t just an experiment in collective creativity or an easy gimmick; Awesome doesn’t come from how well it captures the performance – a lot of the footage is distant or shaky, and a lot of the film is covered up by video effects – but rather in how well it captures the entire concert experience.

A very important part of the music documentaries program at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival was the tribute to the television series World Musicians. Artfully combining information with entertainment, World Musicians, under the guidance of presenter Leonidas Antonopoulos, whirls the viewer to the rhythms and colors of unique musical traditions. This is a special voyage, vividly pulsing to the particular sounds and lifestyle of different places: Cairo, Tilburg, Zanzibar, Teheran, Tel Aviv, Madrid and Barcelona, Mindelo, Gucha, Anogeia, Kissamos and Lasithi. In every episode Leonidas Antonopoulos, the creator of the series, analyzes the past, present and future of a country and its people through the sounds and colors of its music.

Antonopoulos also researches some contemporary musical reality, inspired and based in musical genres and the mainstream of the pop music industry. In the film, for example, Antonopoulos travels to the center of Serbia to meet the Brass Band Summi at Gucha and witnesses the biggest party in the Balkans, the brass band festival in Gucha. This is a musical meeting that attracts the best brass musicians, gypsy and non-gypsy and dozens of bands born in the village into a real life Kusturica Underground.

The other side of gypsy music Antonopoulos presents in the film is the Gypsy Music International Festival in Holland. Antonopoulos visits a gypsy camp, eats and sing along with them, just for a while, he experiences a Time of the Gypsies, totally different to established stereotypes.

In other words, the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival discovered and selected attractive musical documentaries.