Music documentaries are a genre of their own, with a unique aesthetic. Some take the form of a biopic, while others seem as straightforward as simply filming a concert. Eye-catching style is key for these films, in order to project the individuality of the artists they depict.
Today’s list is somewhat based on the opinions of critics, but at the end of the day, it’s still a subjective selection.
Big Fun in the Big Town
Big Fun in the Big Town is a small-scale 80s documentary, centered on the New York rap scene. Its point of view is rather unique: produced by a Dutch author who seems more than a bit out of touch with the intricacies of urban African-American culture. Big Fun is a perfect example of how music documentaries can often stretch beyond theme of music itself, exploring culture in a much broader sense.
Starshaped is a documentary covering the British pop band: Blur. The film takes a “fly on the wall” approach with minimal intervention from the creators, showing the band as they truly are in an attempt to showcase the life of a pop icon. The documentary garnered a cult following over time, due to its portrayal of a pivotal era in British cultural and musical history.
Oscar-award-winning film Amy honors the life and work of the late Amy Winehouse. The film is directed by Asif Kapadia, and was a true hit with both audiences and critics alike. The film uses footage from home movies, interviews and concerts, showcasing her legacy to the fullest.
Buena Vista Social Club
Buena Vista Social Club is arguably one of the most famous music documentaries to date, due to its subject matter and the loving work of its creator. The film was produced by Wim Winders: a creator known for his stories of misfits who find their place outside of the system. The film follows a Cuban ensemble during their first US performance, weaving a tale of Cuba’s complicated yet exciting cultural and artistic scene.
The Rolling Stones has seen its fair share of documentary films, produced by the likes of Godard and Scorsese. However, Gimme Shelter is arguably the most definitive, in terms of its scope and artistic achievements. The film follows the Stones on their US tour, both before and after the infamous Altamont Free Concert. What was billed to rival the likes of Woodstock turned out to be a violent and tragic disaster.
The Decline of the Western Society Part One
This is the first film to respond to America’s punk and new wave subcultures, featuring interviews from Circle Jerks, X, Black Flag and more. Two additional films in the series focus similarly on metal and homeless punk communities. The trilogy is an interesting watch, showing patterns in the public’s reaction to new genres of music.
Which films would you add to our list, and why?