Documentaries do something for us no other film format can: They not only entertain, they tell true stories we need to hear. Those stories at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival cover the gamut from tormented Internet visionary Aaron Swartz to revolutionary Nigerian music legend Fela Kuti, and they’re all essential viewing.
Everyone knows how important music can be to the mood of a movie, but these 13 films go beyond that, focusing on the madness and genius of music itself—the comedic absurdity (“Frank”) and the coming-of-age fantasy (“God Help the Girl”), the healing (“Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory”) and the heartbreak (“Low Down”).
The Sundance Film Festival is a crucible for industry trends and finding emerging talent. Festival watchers tend to focus on the weak economic prospects for many of the films showcased in Park City. The independent marketplace is slowly evolving, but there was plenty to see. So what if no one film galvanized the festival the way BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD and FRUITVALE STATION did in recent years? The festival probably erred in starting off with its best offering, jazz thriller WHIPLASH. No other film topped the buzz generated by this one.
Sundance Review: Fela Kuti’s Wild Life of Sex, Drugs, and Afrobeat Takes Center Stage in FINDING FELA
FINDING FELA, prolific documentarian Alex Gibney’s latest work, faces the challenge of depicting a contradictory artist. But that’s not to say it isn’t entertaining. On the contrary, the film — about the life, times and music of Afrobeat superstar and Nigerian revolutionary Fela Kuti — is exceptionally watchable. Kuti’s wild life never loses its surprise ingredients: from the time he married 27 girls in one ceremony to his involvement with a “spiritual guru” who slit throats for party demonstrations. The film’s challenge lays in its difficult hero, an enormously talented and charismatic man who was also troubled, stubborn, unpredictable, and probably not entirely sane.