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Music films, events on rise for Sundance Film Festival
Graham Willoughby  |  Courtesy Sundance Institute
Singers Jo Lawry, Judith Hill and Lisa Fischer are among the back-up performers who get the spotlight in Morgan Neville's documentary "Twenty Feet From Stardom."
Members of The Eagles - from left: Timothy B. Schmid, Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Joe Walsh - in the documentary "History of the Eagles, Part One," which will screen at the Sundance London Film and Music Festival.
(Courtesy photo)  
A scene from "Muscle Shoals,"  part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
(Courtesy photo)   
A scene from "Muscle Shoals," (Jimmy Cliff) part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
(Courtesy photo)   
A scene from "Muscle Shoals" depicting Bono,  part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
(Courtesy photo)  
A scene from "Muscle Shoals" depicting Gregg Allman,  part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Aretha Franklin sits for an interview in the documentary "Muscle Shoals," playing in the Documentary Premieres section of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. It will screen at the Sundance London Film and Music Festival. (Courtesy Sundance Institute)
(Courtesy photo)   
A scene from "Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer," part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
(Courtesy photo)   
A scene from "Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer," part of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
A scene from the documentary "Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer," which will debut at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The film is represented by John Sloss' Cinetic Media. Courtesy Sundance Institute
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Shining a spotlight » Another film that should bring nostalgic memories to Sundance fans is “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” directed by Morgan Neville, whose “Troubadours” (about the 1970s singer-songwriter movement) debuted there in 2011.

Neville’s new film shines the spotlight on musicians who rarely receive the spotlight: backup singers, including Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill and Merry Clayton. Clayton famously sang “Rape, murder! It’s just a shot away” on The Rolling Stones’ greatest song ever, “Gimme Shelter.”

“The singers featured in the film have made a huge contribution to the music of the last 30 years, but since they are by definition backup singers, the general audience doesn’t know who they are,” Golub said.

One of the film’s subjects, Love, said that in film “music is soothing for the soul. I can’t even think of not having music in movies.”

Also at this year’s Sundance are films about more recent music history, such as “Pussy Riot — A Punk Prayer” and “Narco Cultura.” The former features the prosecution of Russian punk band Pussy Riot, who protested Vladimir Putin’s rule inside the holy site of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior and were sentenced to two years in prison for their defiance. The latter is a look at how American’s war on drugs has influenced popular culture in Mexico, with singers glorifying drug cartels just as Americans once glamorized Billy the Kid in the 19th century and drug dealers in 1990s-era hip-hop.

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It was through music that filmmakers were allowed into the subculture that “Narco Cultura” documents, said director Shaul Schwarz. “The music is important because it shows the growth of ‘narco culture’ and how young people respond to it,” Schwarz said. “It represents what millions live through each day.”

It was the genre of punk rock that drew co-director Mike Lerner to making a film about Pussy Riot. “I hope the film shows how powerful music can be to engender social change,” he said.

His co-director, Maxim Pozdorvkin, said he grew up listening to the same music that influenced the Pussy Riot musicians. “Music and art have always served as alternative ways of engaging with larger social and political issues,” Pozdorovkin said. “Film does something similar, exploring global issues through the prism of individual characters and their experience.”



Twitter: @davidburger

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At a glance

Celebrate the music of Sundance

Quite a few films at this year’s festival have powerful musical scores, said Peter Golub, director of the Sundance Institute Film Music program. He listed “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” with music by Mark Isham; “jOBS,” John Debney; “Stoker,” Clint Mansell; “The Necessary Death of Charlie,” Christophe Beck; “Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes,” Nathan Larson; “American Promise,” Miriam Cutler; “Blackfish” and “When I Walk,” Jeff Beal; and “Dirty Wars,” David Harrington.

For more information about the 2013 festival, visit sundance.org/festival.

Welcome to the Sundance Music Festival

Park City Live, at 427 Main St., will be taken over by Wynn Las Vegas from Jan. 17-21. The venue will host DJs from around the world (including Dutch Afrojack, British Nero and French Cedric Gervais) spinning during the first weekend of the festival. It will feature “the flavor and flair of Las Vegas,” said Ronn Nicoli, director of strategic marketing for Wynn’s exclusive nightclubs XS and Tryst.

The Celebration of Music in Film event, at 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, at the Sundance House, 638 Park Ave., Park City, will feature backup singers who have worked with Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Sting and Chris Botti. The concert celebrates a documentary about legendary backup singers, “Twenty Feet From Stardom.” (Event open to festival credential holders as space permits.)

The annual BMI Snowball music showcase at the Sundance House, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, will celebrate “Muscle Shoals,” a documentary about the legendary Alabama music studios. (Event open to festival credential holders as space permits.)

Other music-related events

Sundance-sponsored panels and roundtables include “Music and Film, The Creative Process,” a discussion Wednesday, Jan. 23, at the Sundance House; and “Power and Story: Measure for Measure” at the Egyptian Theatre on Friday, Jan. 25, which will feature composers Terence Blanchard and Jan A. P. Kaczmarek talking about music’s effect on cinematic history.

At this year’s Sundance ASCAP Music Cafe, at 750 Main St., there will be a new nightly showcase (open to all credential holders) curated by Los Angeles radio station KCRW-FM.

“I get the sense that [Sundance] wants to bloster their music offerings,” said Jason Bentley, KRCW music director. Andrew Bird and Jenny Lewis are among performers slated for night performances during the first weekend. Bentley mused that Sundance officials might like to emulate the success of the Sundance London Film and Music Festival, where music has had more of an emphasis than in Park City.

As for the daytime series, one performer, in particular, will bring a smile to the face of anyone who enjoyed the intersection of music and film in the 1980s. On Friday, Jan. 18, at 4:15 p.m., the Blue Sky Riders trio will perform, including Kenny Loggins, the undisputed King of the Movie Soundtrack. His credits include “I’m Alright” from “Caddyshack,” the title song from “Footloose,” and “Danger Zone” and “Playing With the Boys” from “Top Gun.”

A new series, Concerts at Sundance, will feature local and international artists’ performances to benefit the Huntsman Cancer Institute. The series will take place at Park City clubs, as well as nightly performances at the Silver Star Café, 1825 Three Kings Drive. View the schedule at www.parkcityrestaurants.com/silver-star-cafe. (These concerts aren’t affiliated with the festival.)

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