Docs That Rock

Prague Loves New York

Some cities are forever linked with bands. Liverpool birthed the Beatles. San Francisco rose the Dead. The Laurel Canyon folk rock scene begat The Byrds, CSN&Y, Joni Mitchell. Boston brought forth Boston (ha ha….those computer nerds were actually from Cambridge.)

New York, on the other hand, probably can only boast the Velvet Underground (and the solo work of Lou Reed) as its major contributions to the rock canon. This is no knock on the city. Indeed, as we lovingly recalled in our NY77 doc, NYC may not be known for bands but more for launching movements like disco, ‘80s New Wave (which of course did have seminal, near-canonical acts like Blondie, Talking Heads, etc.) and of course, the entire freakin’ art of hip hop (which deserves more than a parenthetical.)

But follow my train of thought. New York has a different importance to music. It’s an incubator of movements; a center of the business that would beam/transport these songs to the rest of the country; and, arguably, an arbiter of taste that influences what becomes popular. Plus, everyone comes to New York from somewhere else, hampers a homegrown sound or scene; instead, there are many. So while some critics lament the lack of a critical number of famed New York acts (Sonic Youth zealots – wait! Your moment is coming in this post) no one would really deny New York’s importance as a music capital.

Least of all the Moffom Film Festival, which is celebrating New York as a theme in its program this year. Why now? I asked festival organizer John Caukins. He says that every year, Moffom focuses on a geographic region. In the past, its been Russia, South Africa and even New Orleans. He admits that programming for New York City is a tough challenge due to the reasons cited above – so much is going on, there is a surfeit of films from which to select.

Among his selections this year are VH1’s NY77 (of course!) and our forthcoming Lords of the Revolution series episode, featuring Andy Warhol (there’s the Velvets.) Other NY music docs that have been making the rounds are also showing, including Note By Note: The Making of a Steinway; Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell; and From Mambo to Hip Hop; A South Bronx Tale. Some classics are represented too, like Henry Chalfant’s Style Wars.
Oddly, Sonic Youth’s 2006 doc Sleeping Nights Awake (shot by seven student filmmakers) is also at Moffom but not part of the New York section. When I asked John why, he said, “Well, the concert was shot in Nevada.” He implied that New York is kinda like a Kevin Bacon of music – lots of other films could plausibly claim lineage, such as Pete Seeger’s doc (he lived in NY for a time), Planet B-Boy (since B-Boys first appeared in NYC), etc. Maybe every film festival can be a New York film festival! In any case, I’m excited to represent my hometown in Prague. And here is a clip from New York’s own Sonic Youth doc.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


October 16, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Nice collection of guitars you have!

    Comment by Elen Prague | October 22, 2008 | Reply

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