Monday, July 15, 2013

A Band Called Death (2012)

WHO: Brothers David, Bobby and Dannis Hackney and Bobbie Duncan made up the band Death, the subject of this documentary.

WHAT: Hard to think of a more compelling rock-doc subject than a punk band from the heart of Detroit but a world away from the Motown sound, who was active forty years ago but, because of their failure to make it with record companies, saw their legacy become all but forgotten until a few years ago. I haven't seen A Band Called Death yet, so here's some of what Slant Magazine's Drew Hunt had to say about it:
Though A Band Called Death is visually unexciting, predictably interspersing as it does talking-head and archival footage with present-day material, it's made impetuously watchable and disarmingly emotional by the filmmakers' strong command of docudrama and nonfiction narrative style. The strength and seductive nature of the material doesn't hurt matters. Prior to Death's emergence, the typical storyline for the history of punk rock usually begins in New York with the Ramones or London with the Sex Pistols—not inner-city Detroit with three black kids from a working-class family.
WHERE/WHEN: Screens twice nightly through Thursday at the Roxie Theater, and once a day at the New Parkway in Oakland, today, Wednesday and Thursday.

WHY: Last year's Roxie weekend of screenings entitled This Must Be The Place: Post-Punk Tribes 1978-1982 was so successful that the venue is holding a sequel which has recently had its full lineup revealed. This Must Be The Place: Post-Punk Tribes 1983-1990 runs July 26-28 and includes films and videos by Charles Atlas, Nick Zedd, D.A. Pennebaker and others, about musicians from Psychic TV to The Residents to Lydia Lunch to Depeche Mode. Of special interest are 16mm screenings of Rick Schmidt's locally-shot 1983 film Emerald Cities, featuring performances by Flipper & other Frisco Bay legends, and Tony Gayton's Athens, GA: Inside/Out, on the Deep South college town music scene that made home to bands like Pylon, the Flat Duo Jets, the Squalls, and oh yes, R.E.M. and the B-52's as well.

Death's active era predates the time period covered by this year's This Must Be The Place series- and last year's too! But it seems unfair to the tide of music history to watch films involving 1980s musicians without first learning about their forgotten forebears. 

HOW: A Band Called Death screens via digital projection.

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