“Sound On Screen 2013” features Metallica‘s Lars Ulrich, documentaries on punk in Africa and the drums in African culture, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante and Irish folk music masters – plus a movie about a tone-deaf cop on the trail of a posse of anarchic percussionists. The fourth annual “Sound on Screen” festival of films about music is curated by Flamedrop Productions, who created independent film festivals like Cape Town’s annual Halloween “HorrorFest”, the “Celludroid” science-fiction festival and “Daring Doccies”. It showcases ten films at the Labia Theatre, including documentaries, feature films and a comedy. For the first time, it see its two headline films also premiering at Johannesburg’s Bioscope cinema.
This feature by Evan Milton originally appeared in the Weekend Argus “Good Weekend”
One of these is “Mission to Lars“, about Will Spicer and Kate Spicer, who decide to make true the dearest wish of their autistic brother, Tom Spicer. He was born with “fragile X syndrome”, the most common inherited learning disability, and has been a fan of heavy metal band Metallica for years and has fixated on meeting their drummer, Lars Ulrich. “Mission to Lars” chronicles the heart-wrenching road journey the trio undertake, and an eventual glimpse of the world-famous drummer.
“It was a task to reach (British journalist and co-producer) Kate Spicer,” says “Sound on Screen” festival director, Paul Blom. “Eventually I tried just one more time, and it worked. The film is a different perspective on something most people don’t pay attention to, unless they maybe have a family member or a friend who suffers from some kind of autism. It’s a great film because you get a sense of Lars Ulrich, a professional who said, ‘No, I don’t want people to steal my music,’ and the next thing he became ‘the most hated man in music’ after instituting legal action against Napster downloads. So I’m glad people get to see the man, and also learn more about one family dealing with something that is often hidden, but not that unique.”
“It falls within the music-percussion-detective-crime-musical-abstract-comedy genre”
Paul Blom, on “Sound of Noise” Cape Town 2013
The other headline film is “Sound of Noise“, a French-Swedish crime-caper that has won awards at the International Critics’ Week, Fantastic Fest in Austin, the Warsaw International Film Festival and a Guldbagge Award for “virtuous mergence of sound and music”. Nicknamed “‘Bonnie and Clyde‘ on drums’, and hailed as “a delightful comic cocktail”, it sees a group of anarchic percussionists engaged in a series of public performances that include holding up a bank and shredding money – in time to a metronome. They are pursued, in a touch of true comedic wit, by a tone-deaf policeman who detests music.
“It falls within the music-percussion-detective-crime-musical-abstract-comedy genre;” quips Paul Blom. “A very interesting movie that we got wind of two years ago, and finally can show it in 2013.”
Acquiring the rights and screening copies of a given film can be complicated. “Maybe you get the director, and they love the idea, but it’s a long trail to find the production or distribution department that deals with festivals,” Paul Blom says, by way of example. “Obviously, we don’t screen without licences or appropriate permission, and that takes different forms. Sometimes people supply to screen; sometimes they want a set fee; sometimes they want a percentage of the box office. Being an off-the-centre film festival in Cape Town, it’s not always easy to get the right people to the event to make sure these thing get easier.”
“Baron Rojo, Tension and Einstürzende Neubauten: ‘Long Live Rock ‘n Roll’, ‘25 years underground’ and ‘ Liebeslieder’.”
– ‘Sound on Screen’ highlights, Cape Town 2013
Also on offer are two chronicle-style documentaries: “Tension: 25 years underground” and “Baron Rojo: Long Live Rock ‘n Roll“. “Tension were one of those bands that had people excited at the time, in the ’80s, but didn’t quite get to where everyone had hoped,” says Blom. “Their one guitarist left and joined Megadeath, but Tension didn’t reach those heights. It’s one for band members, about the pitfalls and headaches along the road, and how you must really love what you’re doing to keep it up. ‘Baron Rojo‘ is about a band I’ll admit I’d never heard of until the Spanish film company sent us the movie – they’re considered one of the biggest rock bands in Spain. It’s cool to have education at the film festival; to offer audiences a chance to discover stuff they never knew existed.”
“‘Sound on Screen‘ covers everything from folk to rock, and from African music to punk and metal,” says Blom. There’s the controversial documentary, “Punk In Africa“, which features once celebrated South African bands like Powerage and The Safari Suits to contemporary exponents of the genre, like Cape Town’s own Hog Hoggidy Hog. “3-Triúr: In Search of Musical Form” documents the long-standing collaboration of three of Irelands’ most distinguished folk musicians. In related spirit of tracking what music is and means to audiences, “The Heart is a Drum Machine” features interviews with scholars, scientists, sound engineers and producers about the effect, and the place of music. It also has inserts from famous names like John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Maynard James Keenan (Tool), Matt Sorum (Guns ‘n Roses), Juliette Lewis, Charlie Clouser (Nine Inch Nails), George Clinton (Funkadelic), Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips) and more. The inclusion of “Einstürzende Neubauten: Liebeslieder” will immediately attract fans of this seminal German “industrial” ensemble. Finally, “Sound on Screen” recently confirmed a pre-screening appearance by the cinematographer for “African Drum: Beyond the Beat“, an award-wining film that considers the socail significance of drums in Africa, including visits to Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo and South Africa.
“Everyone understands a beat,” says Paul Blom, “But you don’t necessarily know about the deeper significance of these things. There’s something in this film – and the rest of the films on the festival – that is more than just something you nod your head to.”
Tonight (Sunday 28 April), see “Baron Rojo” (2.15pm), “Einstürzende Neubauten” (4pm), “Punk In Africa” (6.15pm) and “mission To Lars” *8.30pm). On Monday 29 April, see “3-Triur” (6.15pm) and “The Heart is a Drum Machine” (8.30pm). On Tuesday 30 April, see “Tension” (6.15pm) and “Punk In Africa” (8.30pm). On Wednesday 1 May, see “African Drum” (6.15pm) and “Sound of Noise” (8.30pm). On Thursday 2 May, see “Baron Rojo” (6.15pm) and “Einstürzende Neubauten” (8.30pm). All at the Labia Theatre (Orange St; tickets R35; bookings 021-4245927 or Quicket.co.za/SoundOnScreen)