Making up a list of the best music documentaries of the 2010’s up to now might be a little harder than summing up a few (the) highlights of a particular genre or national industry. If you’re a fan of a particular band or artist whose career has been ‘documented’, you’ll most likely like the outcome anyway. And vice versa. I remember a friend of mine made me watch Flight 666, an Iron Maiden documentary, which follows the band on tour, while lead singer Bruce Dickinson himself flies their plane. I hate Iron Maiden, so despite the juicy on-the-road anecdotes, I was soon yearning for the end of the documentary as it contained tons of live footage. So what I tried here is to compose a list of documentaries which should be worth anyones while, whether you’ll like the actual music or not.
Best music docs 2010-2013
Mistaken For Strangers (2013)
Directed by Tom Berninger
Mistaken for strangers, directed by Tom Berninger, brother of indie rock band The National’s singer Matt Berninger, is merely an exploration of brotherhood than an actual music documentary or tour diary. Tom is a few years Matt’s minor and has, ever since The National became one of America’s most popular indie bands, always lived a bit in the shade of his brothers’ success. When Matt invites his unemployed brother to join The National on tour as a roadie, their differences become painfully clear. Mistaken for strangers is often funny, as Tom is not afraid to leave out the (many) awkward moments on tour and gives a beautiful and touching insight in what it means to have a famous brother and the pressure that comes along with that.
Shut Up and Play the Hits (2012)
Directed by Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern
To be honest, this one might not be that interesting for every one. Shut up is a document of the hours James Murphy spent before and after he played his final epic show with LCD Soundsystem in Madison Square Garden and contains a lot of footage from that actual show. The documentary features fragments from a long, personal interview between Murphy and a pop journalist too, which doesnt add much value as the interviewer doesnt really ask interesting questions but is merely interested in sharing his own pseudo-psychological views on Murphys motives as an artist. The live footage itself however, shot by the same guys who did the Blur documentary No Distance Left to Run, is absolutely great, as it captures LCDs energy brilliantly. Its hard not to be moved when finally New York I Love You kicks in, the perfect swan song of one last decades most interesting bands.
Searching for Sugar Man (2012)
Directed by Malik Bendjelloul
As avid readers of film magazines and websites probably already know, Searching for Sugarmans director Malik Bendjelloul tragically committed suicide a couple of days a go.Searching will forever remain Bendjelloul only piece of work, which will enhance his reputation as a prodigy (and thus the mystery surrounding him) all the more. And it truly is a great documentary. The story evolves around Rodriguez, an American folk singer from the seventies who never quite got the recognition he deserved in his home country. After two albums, his record company kicked him of the roster, as the sales were disappointing (only six copies of album were sold, according to one of the interviewed). What nobody in the States ever knew however, including Rodriguez himself, is that in isolated South Africa, he soon became more popular then Elvis Presley (again, according to one of the interviewed).
A Band Called Death (2013)
Directed by Mark Christopher Covino en Jeff Howlett
Before there was punk, there was a band called Death is the tag line of this sensational music documentary. But Death werent just Punks when Punk still had to be invented; they were black too, which makes the story even more sensational, given the fact that punk rock has always been an almost exclusively white cultural phenomenon. Three black brothers from Detroit, the city that was at the height of its Motown hausse back then, who experimented with fast paced rock and invented this whole, occult-ish image around their band. Alas, back then, nobody seemed interested in such a loud band with such a peculiar name and Death went as soon as they came. It wasnt after almost three decades that the band was rediscovered and finally received the acknowledgment they deserved as pioneers of the genre.
Twenty Feet from Stardom (2013)
Directed by Morgan Neville
Twenty feet from stardom won last years Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, which might a little too much praise given the fact that Joshua Oppenheimers brilliant and provoking documentary The Act of Killing was awarded too. Nonetheless, Twenty feet is a highly enjoyable documentary which certainly cant be left out of this list. As the title suggests, the film focuses on back-up singers. Back-up singers who shared the stages with the biggest artists in the world, but never got any credit for it, simply because they are nothing more than bit players alongside the stars. The documentary doesnt handle the topic in a bitter way though. Quite the contrary actually, which makes it such an engaging watch.