Documentaries David Bowie, Selena Gomez go way beyond the music

Louis Armstrong, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Selena Gomez, Sinead O’Connor and Tanya Tucker are the subject of six music documentaries set to release in 2022. But if you ask the directors behind each project if they’ve created a music document, the answer is a resounding no.

Instead, it uses music created by each legendary artist to draw the viewer into a deeper story beyond the song.

Sacha Jenkins’ “Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues” is a prime example. While Jenkins delves into the life and art of his legendary jazz performer, the director also bridges America and race by examining the misconception that the New Orleans trumpeter didn’t fully support the civil rights movement. explore.

“This film is more than just a music document,” says Jenkins. “Music is an excellent portal to the larger conversation because music is always a reflection and a response to the environment, especially for black artists in America. So in Armstrong’s films, of course, music is The important part is you have to be able to understand what influenced the music, and it’s the environment, the climate of America, the race. , is what the movie’s larger theme really is.

Kathryn Ferguson made a film about Sinead O’Connor, Nothing Compares, but she, like Jenkins, doesn’t consider it a “regular music documentary.”

“Dive deep into socio-political themes, Irish history, and the treatment of women was paramount to me,” says Ferguson. “Of course, music is one of the key elements. [of the film] But it’s really about how [Sinead] Drawing on her songwriting, voice, and activism, who she became and how she used her powers when she had them.

Similarly, country music icon Tanya Tucker’s career was underrated because she didn’t stick to the way women should behave in the music scene. In Kathryn Horan’s “The Return of Tanya Tucker, featuring Brandi Carlile,” Tucker comes out of semi-retirement to record her first album in 17 years, with Carlyle’s help.

Horan says he sees Tucker’s music as “a Trojan horse that pulls you into the story.”

“The film shines a light on Deep South feminism and explores Brandy and Tanya’s evolving relationship,” says Horan. “Both are artists and changemakers, but in different ways. We live in a world that teaches us that there are more barriers than our paths to each other. We hope that it will inspire people to see the path to building community between them.”

Isabel Castro’s “Mija” doesn’t feature a musical star like Tucker or O’Connor, but the Sundance documentary focuses on two women who are daughters of illegal immigrants and work in the music industry. I guess.

“Immigration is a very divisive topic,” says Castro. “Music is such a universal language that it can explore a wide variety of difficult topics. It is accessible and brings with it a great many emotions. It can often be used as a way to explore without worrying too much.”

Every year, documents about musicians are produced, including concert films, career records, and artist portraits. In addition to its ubiquity, Daniel Geller, co-director of “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song,” said that the subgenre remains popular because the particular music serves the built-in audience. I’m here.

“If the audience recognizes the song or the songwriter, I don’t have to try to convince anyone, and I think they’ll find the audience quickly,” says Geller.

Geller and Dana Goldfine’s “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen’s Journey, Song” focuses on Cohen’s familiar “Hallelujah.” However, the director duo hopes that audiences who come to listen to the music will be able to step away from the film and think about multiple successful songs.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a music documentary,” says Goldfine. “But we were looking at Leonard Cohen from the beginning, seeing his spiritual journey through the prism of this one song, trying not to make it just a typical musical document. For example, I wouldn’t start with a trope of a montage of all the best moments of the song “Hallelujah” and other musicians and critics talking about why Leonard is so great. We try to convey the idea to the audience from the beginning that this is a spiritual journey, and we use this one of his songs as a gateway to that. ”

Alec Keshisian had no trouble finding an audience for his influential 1991 music document Truth or Dare. The film documented Madonna and her dancers during her tour of 1990 Blonde Ambitions World. Thirty years after he directed “Truth or Dare,” Keshisian was signed to produce “Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me.” But unlike “Truth or Dare,” “My Mind & Me” is not a concert film. Instead, the 96-minute document is her six-year journey with Gomez navigating the pressures of fame while facing battles with lupus, depression, and anxiety.

“‘Truth or Dare’ and ‘My Mind & Me’ are two very different films, but what binds them together is my own evolution as a person and as a filmmaker,” Keshisian said. increase. “I made ‘Truth or Dare’ when I was 24, and I think, like Madonna, I was captivated by the brilliance and positivity that fame can bring. , had the opportunity to explore the darker side of fame and fame in My Mind & Me.”

From the beginning with Gomez and her team, Keshisian has made it clear that she did not want to create music marketing documents aimed at reviving a career or boosting sales of the artist’s latest album.

“We agreed to make this film because we knew there was a bigger point than just massaging Selena Gomez’s brand,” says Keshisian. , was whether it could provide audiences with the chaotic experience they performed flawlessly night after night on tour around the world. [Selena] You are stepping into a world of paparazzi and crowds. I wanted to show how that dichotomy affects people. So life on stage was definitely an element of that contrast. ”

Another helmer who doesn’t classify his films as music documentaries is ‘Moonage Daydream’ director Brett Morgen. Morgen, an immersive documentary about David Bowie, says, “A tremendous amount of energy has been invested in trying to market Moonage Daydream as something other than a music documentary.” .

“My concern was that if someone showed up expecting to be presented with information in a way that we would associate with the term, they would be disappointed.” Morgen says. “This is what most of us have come to expect from a ‘music documentary,’ including the success of ‘Behind the Music,’ which defined music documentation for generations in the 1990s. Me We are in a very interesting moment when the genre is about to open up, and advances in technology have made movies like Moon Age Daydream possible in ways previously unthinkable. .”

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