Toronto's annual showcase of live rock music includes an ever-growing film showcase. This year it plays at several venues downtown, from the Royal Cinema in Little Italy to the AMC next to Dundas Square where Iggy Pop and the Stooges will play a free gig. Here's a round-up of this year's film series (ratings based on four **** stars) with the schedule found here:
Opening night (June 18) starts with Carnival (***), Don Letts' fine new documentary tracing the rise of the Notting Hill Caribbean carnival (like Toronto's Caribana). The evolution of that festival from pariah to mainstream mirrors the growth of the Caribbean community in England. Following that is Sounds Like A Revolution (***) made by hometown filmmakers Summer Preney and Jane Michener. It's a detailed look at protest music in the Bush age where corporate censorship and political pressure rule. The Dixie Chicks, Michael Franti and Steve Earle are just some of the outspoken musicians interviewed here.
The long-awaited Broken Social Scene film, This Movie Is Broken (**), is disappointing. Band fan, Bruce McDonald, spins a fictitious tale about a young couple who go to a real BSS gig and quarrel. The story is pointless, but the concert footage is electrifying. Better on that day (June 17) is Superstonic Sound: The Rebel Dread (***) which is a straightforward bio-doc about director Letts, who basks in a director's spotlight this year.
Letts is credited for bringing reggae and punk musicians together in mid-70s London, and for filming Bob Marley, The Clash and The Sex Pistols in their prime. On the flipside, Strummerville (*) looks just like a corporate video, elevating Joe Strummer to the role of saint and casting the charity established in his name--to get troubled people making music--as nirvana. Fake.
Closer to home is You Left Me Blue: The Handsome Ned Story (***). This is a 79-minute labour of love, detailing the life of country music cult favourite Handsome Ned, whose residency at the Cameron House in the early-80s helped establish this venerable Queen Street live house. Bandmates, family and admirers recall a talented guy who died too young to achieve stardom.
As mentioned, Iggy takes the stage on June 19. Earlier that day, Search and Destroy: Iggy Pop and The Stooges' Raw Power (***1/2) screens, telling the story behind the making of this great, LOUD rock record from 1973. The doc is told much like a Classic Albums episode with many modern reminisces by the band, old concert footage and a peek at the session tapes.
Closing the film series is the Canadian premiere of Stones in Exile, about the making of The Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street, which has just been remastered and re-released. This film played at Cannes and being a Stones' fan I'm eager to see it, but alas no press screenings were held before NXNE.