From Clinton to Cobain, from South Africa to Brazil to Montreal to China, the seventh year of NXNE's Film Festival provides the fullest possible spectrum of music on the horizon while offering new angles on music stories you thought you already knew.
With features like the sixth annual Indie Music Video Festival, a documentary on the Glastonbury Festival and the CBGB's archives being cracked open, it's a good look.
COUNTING HEADZ: SOUTH AFRICA'S SISTAZ IN HIP-HOP (Erin Offer, Vusi Magubane). 50 minutes. Friday (June 8), 3:15 pm, NFB Mediatheque (150 John). 416-973-3012. Rating: NNNN
South Africa's attitudes about rap will seem both familiar and foreign to anyone who grew up listening to it in North America.
As Counting Headz: South Africa's Sistaz In Hip-Hop demonstrates, women there have just as tough a time getting respected for MCing as their Western counterparts. In fact, it's even harder for them - boom-bap doesn't carry the same level of cachet in South African society, and gets next to no love in the ghetto.
Meanwhile, the role of women is still rigidly defined, and few understand why a girl might want to rap. It's fascinating to see the wealth of female artists in this film shattering their gender roles, defying standards of coolness and trying to control their art and their images in South Africa's small, male-run hiphop industry.
Up to Scratch
JAMESIE: KING OF SCRATCH (Andrea Leland). 70 minutes. Sunday (June 10), 1:30 pm, NFB Mediatheque (150 John). 416-973-3012. Rating: NNNN
Looking like a black George Burns, James "Jamesie" Brewster is one of the very few folks in the U. S. Virgin Islands still playing his country's indigenous music, especially the quelbe, a storytelling kind of folk song that sounds kinda calypsonian and blends French quadrille with the Crucian (St. Croix) beat.
Jamesie (flanked by his "scratch band") is an amazing musician who makes esteemed Danish orchestras and cultured music lovers in Chicago marvel at his "natural swing." Back on the islands, however, his sounds inspire radio callers to diss his tunes, and all the kids want to listen to is Lil' Wayne.
This movie is bursting with visions of the small country's culture and the good humour of its central character.
UNAUTHORIZED AND PROUD OF IT: TODD LOREN'S ROCK 'N' ROLL COMICS (Ilko Davidov). 88 minutes. Friday (June 8), 1 pm, NFB Mediatheque (150 John). 416-973-3012. Rating: NNNN
Clocking in at 88 minutes, Unauthorized And Proud Of It is a tightly condensed mix of three stories: the rise of Revolutionary Comics, the stabbing death of its founder, Todd Loren, and the meaning of "free speech" in America.
From 89 into the early 90s, Loren's company put out Rock N Roll Comics and promptly got sued for publishing illustrated unauthorized biographies of the most popular headbangers of the day, like Guns N' Roses and Mötley Crüe.
As a character study of a murdered cult comics mogul whose stable of writers and artists agree he was an asshole, the film grips. Add the history of a small, controversial magazine empire whose old issues now sell for big numbers of eBay and the ongoing wrangle over the First Amendment and what you get is a kick-ass rock doc.
On the Fritz
WASTED ORIENT: JOYSIDE (Kevin Fritz). 88 minutes. Saturday (June 9), 3 pm, NFB Mediatheque (150 John). 416-973-3012. Rating: NNN
"Wasted" is the operative word in this flick about Joyside , a five-member Ramones-inspired band from Beijing who spend much of Kevin Fritz 's film drunk and aggressively apathetic.
"I have no relation with the world, and I have no interest in the world," reads a subtitle attributed to lead singer Bian Yuan , and unless you really hate life, it's hard to sympathize with him. Most of this film finds the members of Joyside posturing in a surly, pretend-cool way (then-guitarist Yang Yang eats insects, feigning disgust before eating more) while they tour China trying to make it.
The country's culture, and the way rock shows are set up there, is miles more interesting than the band itself.