He looks the part, but it’s more than that — whether speaking, singing or playing guitar, OutKast’s Andre Benjamin is a convincing Jimi Hendrix in “Jimi: All Is by My Side.” John Ridley’s biopic tackles Hendrix just before his stardom, the period from 1966 to 1967, when he stepped out from being an R&B backing musician and took center stage, first in London and then in a culture-defining set at the Monterey Pop Festival in California.
The movie has a lot of music — three dozen tracks by Bob Dylan, The Seeds and others — but Hendrix’s own material is re-created by seasoned session players like Waddy Wachtel and Kenny Aronoff.
“We were never preoccupied with securing the benchmark material — it was to delineate and expose the art of Jimi finding himself as he moved from the second row of Curtis Knight’s band to Jimi and The Blue Flames to The Experience,” says Danny Bramson, who makes his hands-on producer debut with “Jimi: All Is by My Side” after decades of music soundtrack work.
Most crucial to Bramson was to get director-writer Ridley to write a “never seen” but often-related chapter of rock history: Hendrix’s performance of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” at the Saville Theater in front of Paul McCartney and George Harrison four days after the album was released.
“I was relentless in my pursuit,” says Bramson, who worked on the film for four years. “I phoned Paul’s office and within 72 hours [The Beatles, their heirs and Sony/ATV] had unilaterally agreed to the use without me ever sending over a page.”
Open Road Films and XLrator Media will release “Jimi: All Is by My Side” theatrically in June. It plays in Austin the day before the U.S. Postal Service issues a Hendrix stamp and sponsors a tribute concert in Austin with such artists as Slash and Dave Alvin.
Other don’t-miss SXSW music movies include:
“Leave the World Behind”
Director Christian Larson, who chronicled Swedish House Mafia in the 2010 year-in-the-life documentary Take One, follows the EDM superstar act yet again on its farewell tour. Producer Svana Gisla previously produced last year’s fan-driven “Springsteen & I.” (The Paramount, March 12)
“Soul Boys of the Western World”
Spandau Ballet, the British new romantic group whose 1984 single, “True,” was a global smash, tapped director George Hencken to tell the band’s story using archival footage. The group will perform its first U.S. show in 28 years after the film’s world premiere. (The Paramount, March 12)
Mike Myers adds director and documentary filmmaker to his resume with the tale of Shep Gordon, former manager of Alice Cooper, Blondie and Luther Vandross. The film juxtaposes Gordon’s spiritual quest against a backdrop of rock hedonism. (The Paramount, March 9)
“The 78 Project Movie”
What if you could turn back technology? Alex Steyermark and Lavinia Jones Wright traveled the United States to record artists on a 1930s Presto direct-to-disc acetate recorder, the same device used by musicologist Alan Lomax some 80 years ago. Victoria Williams, John Doe, The Bo-Keys and Ben Vaughn are among the acts who take part in the experiment. (Vimeo Theater, March 11)