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A Song For You: The '09 Festival's Musical Films

Who doesn't like a little music with their movies? A guide to this year's soulful, rocking, and jazzy films.

Soul Power

They are The Greatest: did you like that Muhammad Ali documentary When We Were Kings? (Oscar sure did!) Then it's a sure bet that you'll dig Soul Power, also directed by Jeff Levy-Hinte. This time, instead of the "Rumble in the Jungle" and the beads of sweat pouring down Ali's forehead, we're going behind the scenes of the music festival that accompanied it: Zaïre 74, three days of performances featuring Soul Brother Number One, James Brown, B.B. King, Bill Withers, Miriam Makeba, Celia Cruz, The Crusaders, Sister Sledge, and more.

Soul Power premieres on Thursday, April 30, at 8:00 pm, with two more screenings to follow.


Blank City

Avant-garde music and art are like brothers, or cousins, perhaps: both flourish in similar environments, and when it comes to Blank City, we're talking about the East Village scene in 1970s New York. In Celine Danhier's documentary, interviews with the likes of Jim Jarmusch, Steve Buscemi, Lydia Lunch, Richard Kern, John Waters, Thurston Moore, and John Lurie shed a light on this generation of daring artists. Plus, if you're at the right screening, you may meet my own personal king of Twitteronia, Steve Buscemi, if you're lucky.

Blank City premieres on Saturday, April 25, at 6:00 pm, with two more screenings to follow.


P-star Rising

P-Star Rising

A documentary is the perfect way to share Priscilla Star Diaz's story. After all, it's hard to believe that a nine-year-old female rapper could have credibility on the streets of Harlem, but starting with the first minute of P-Star Rising, you see this "Young Feminist Phenomenon" rocking a nightclub filled with big dudes three times her size. Totally crazy. Gabriel Noble's intimate direction casts an even eye on the proceedings, and we see the complicated dynamics in the Diaz family; the pressure that Priscilla feels, the raw talent that she has, her father Jesse's urge to cultivate and take advantage of her gift, and the family love underneath it all. It's a great film and worth a look.

P-Star Rising premieres on Friday, April 24, at 6:45 pm, with more screenings to follow, including a FREE Drive-In presentation on Saturday, April 25.

Other Music Films

If you're a jazz fan, try these films:

handsome harry 

Handsome Harry

Like Blank City, it features Steve Buscemi, and it's directed by Bette Gordon, who also appeared in the doc above.It has an original underscore by composer Anton Sanko, who combined the jazz of Jumaane Smith. Want to chill out and check out some of the score for yourself? Click here.

Guy and Madeline

Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench

This film has an original score put together by director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz and features trumpeter Jason Palmer as one of the leads. (Palmer has a Manhattan show at The Jazz Gallery scheduled for Thursday, April 23.)

If you like impossible-to-classify rock (for lack of a better word) musicals, check out this special event:


Passing Strange

Spike Lee got this Broadway hit on film. Now you can see this coming-of-age Bohemian rhapsody on the big screen.

A reminder (and this is from the tickets page): Never Say "Sold Out" – Even if advance tickets are no longer available, don’t give up—just think RUSH TICKETS. We admit those standing in the RUSH TICKETS line approximately 15 minutes prior to a film or panel’s scheduled start time, until a theater is at capacity. Lines begin forming approximately 60 minutes before each screening, so be sure to arrive early.

This reminder applies to quick-selling flicks like Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful, Burning Down the House: The Story of CBGB, and Soundtrack for a Revolution. Don't forget: there is also the chance of additional screenings being added.

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