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.
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.”
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