NORTH BY NORTHEAST FILM FESTIVAL June 9-12 at the Royal Cinema (608 College) and the NFB Cinema (159 John). Free with NXNE wristband ($24). Individual tickets at the door $5 (NFB), $8 (Royal). Film fest conference pass $99. www.NXNE.com.
Like the festival proper, the film part of NXNE is a mixed bag of shiny gems and murky dross.
Most of the films are documentaries, though Mix Tape ( Jefferson Root , June 10, 8 pm, NFB), is a sorry exception. It's a homemade microbudget rom-com about indie rock boys who make mix tapes for their girlfriends. It's an aw-w-inspiring premise, but all the cuteness in the world can't compensate for the filmmaker's cluelessness about women. It's like Root's never even seen them on TV, let alone hung out with any.
The girls' gushingly upbeat reactions to sleazy party-boy pickup manoeuvres by aging record-store clerks make this flick come across like High Fidelity without the self-awareness: unmitigated geek-boy fantasy that doesn't know it's dreaming.
Over in the real world, the documentaries cover a lot of ground. Rave Against The Machine ( Stevan Riley , Richard Rudy , James Harvey , 24 minutes, June 11, 5:15 pm, NFB) is a short but inherently fascinating look at the music scene that developed in Sarajevo while the city was under siege for four years in the mid-90s. Survivors recall with some nostalgia the days when they really, really needed the emotional outlet provided by crazed sunrise-to-curfew basement raves.
Also intriguing but disappointingly unfocused, Los Zafiros - Music From The Edge Of Time ( Lorenzo Destefano , June 12, 2:30 pm, NFB) ought to chronicle the 1960s glory days of the best boy band ever, a Cuban five-piece that invented a hybrid of bossa nova and doo-wop prettier than the Beach Boys and more danceable than Motown. Instead, it mostly shows the two surviving members wandering around Havana going, "Hey, didn't we used to drink there?" while locals affirm that they remember them fondly. The glimpses of old footage of the band in full swivelling, synchronized flight are worth sticking around for, though.
Two other docs get it right. Tragedy: The Story Of Queensbridge ( Booker Sim , June 9, 7 pm, Royal) uses a biography of rapper Tragedy Khadafi as the springboard for a plunge into the complex genealogy of hiphop artists living in the fertile crescent of the world's largest housing project. Members of the Juice Crew , CNN and 25 to Life dissect mentorships, rivalries and philosophical schisms in extended rapid-fire detail.
Compelling overall, but on some of the footage of eager young up-and-comers rapping you wish Sim would stop editing and let them finish.
In Lomax: The Song Hunter ( Rogier Kappers , June 11, 2:30 pm, NFB), the director revisits remote villages in Europe and America where folk music archivist Alan Lomax recorded regional folk songs whose existence was menaced by the twin bogies of globalization and mass media. Kappers knows how to shape a narrative around nostalgia, and strikes a balance between social context and personal anecdote. He emerges with a thorough and not always laudatory portrait of Lomax, and great footage of elderly people playing folk songs that are now close to being extinct.
Presumably on the shiny side, although unavailable at press time, is Wim Wenders 's latest, Viel Passiert - Der BAP Film (Ode To Cologne) (June 11, 8:30 pm, NFB), in which he teams up with rock musician Wolfgang Niedecken to celebrate 20 years of the band BAP.