Sundance: 10 Must-See, Music-Related Movies Screening in Park City

Nick Cave, Fela Kuti, Beck and Anne Hathaway highlight films with music elements at Sundance this year

It’s nothing new to have musicians head by the planeload into Park City, Utah, to perform at various showcases, but this year’s line-up has a decidedly musical bent. Included are documentaries on Fela Kuti, the Electric Daisy festival and Rae Spoon, and scripted films that hit venture in 1960s jazz, the Brooklyn music scene and the streets of Glasgow.

The last two years have been incredibly good for music-related documentaries. Sony Pictures Classics premiered “Searching for Sugar Man” at Sundance in 2012 before the film on Rodriguez went on a worldwide festival journey before landing an Oscar for best documentary. Last year’s Sundance was the first stop for “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” Dave Grohl’s “Sound City” “Muscle Shoals” and ‘Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer.” 

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Here then are 10 films with a considerable music presence playing at this year’s festival which runs Jan. 16-26.

“Finding Fela”
Director Alex Gibney (Oscar winner for “Taxi to the Dark Side”) tackles the Nigerian Afrobeat legend’s music and his role in postcolonial political activism. Steve Hendel, a producer of the Broadway musical “Fela!,” executive produces with his wife  Ruth Hendel. The band from the musical has three performances booked at the festival.
Premieres Jan. 17 

“Frank”
A comedy about a young wannabe musician who joins a band of eccentric pop musicians led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank and his terrifying sidekick, Clara. After a rocky start, Jon ingratiates himself with the bandmembers, and they retreat to a cabin in the woods to record an album. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy and Michael Fassbinder star in Lenny Abrahamson's film; Stephen Rennicks is the composer.
Premieres Jan. 17

 
“My Prairie Home”
Transgender singer/songwriter Rae Spoon embarks on a tour across Canada in director Chelsea McMullan’s film. Spoon has at least two public performances booked.
Premieres Jan. 17 

 
“God Help the Girl”
First-time writer/director Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian has created an indie-pop musical that tells a coming-of-age story set in Glasgow. Emily Browning, Olly Alexander and Hannah Murrayare among the cast.
Premieres Jan. 18

 
“Under the Electric Sky”
Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, the directors behind TV’s “Top Chef” who produced “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” and directed “Katy Perry: Part of Me,” dive into the 2013 edition of the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. KCRW music director Jason Bentley is music supervisor, Kaskade is composer.
Premieres Jan. 18

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“20,000 Days on Earth”
Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, whose music-related work includes a sound installation with Scott Walker,  combine drama and documentary in detailing Nick Cave’s artistic process. Cave and Warren Ellis did the music.
Premieres Jan. 20

 
“Low Down”
The life of jazz pianist Joe Albany and his struggles with heroin addiction aretold through the eyes of his daughter Amy in Jeff Preiss’s scripted film. Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis and Flea, who appears in the film, executive produced along with Amy-Jo Albany. John Hawkes, Elle Fanning, Glenn Close and Peter Dinklage are among the cast; Ohad Talmor did the music. Flea, Talmor and Fanning will participate in the Celebration of Music in Film event on Jan. 19.
Premieres Jan. 19

 
“Song One”
Anne Hathaway and musician-actor Johnny Flynn star in the first feature from writer-director Kate Barker-Froyland that ventures into the Brooklyn music scene of subway troubadours. Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice provide the music; Marc Platt and Jonathan Demme are among the producers.
Premieres Jan. 20
 

 “No No: A Dockumentary”
Sports are a dominant theme among this year’s documentaries unspooling at Sundance. “No No” chronicles the life of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis, who threw a no-hitter while tripping on acid. Randall Poster (“Springbreakers,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Boardwalk Empire”) is the music supervisor; the Beastie Boys’ Adam Horovitz makes his feature film debut as a composer.
Premieres Jan. 20

 
“Sound + Vision”
Director Chris Milk, whose music video work includes Kanye West, Arcade Fire, Johnny Cash and  Jack White, takes a 360 approach to Beck reimagining David Bowie’s 1977 song “Sound and Vision,” Re-engineered for a virtual reality platform, audiences are able to stand on the stage with Beck or roam the audience and orchestra  during the 10-minute film that is screening as part of New Frontier.
Runs Jan. 16-24

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