Music in the movies at the Sonoma International Film Festival
The Sonoma International Film Festival is back and, among the movies about food, wine, fires, and spa destinations, there are a handful that are music related. There is also live music every day in the Backlot Tent featuring many local musicians. But for now, lights, camera, music!
“Joe Frank – Somewhere Out There” - Have you heard of Joe Frank? You’ve likely heard him.
Originally born in France while his family was fleeing the Nazi’s, Frank (who’s original last name was Langermann) lost his father at 5 years of age, and then took on his mother’s new husband’s last name. In his 20s, Frank studied at Hofstra University in New York and taught English and Russian literature and philosophy for 10 years at the Dalton School in Manhattan and later, while working as a music promoter, became interested in the power of radio. In 1977, Frank started volunteering at Pacifica Network station WBAI in New York, performing experimental radio involving monologues, improvisational actors, and live music during late-night, free-form hours.
Frank performed in, and produced 18 dramas for the “NPR Playhouse,” which won several awards. You can still hear him on KPFA as Sundays, though he died in January of this year.
The documentary covers Frank’s career on radio and online, and his highly produced radio shows can be described as innovative, abstract, underground, autobiographical, surreal, funny, disturbing, and thought-provoking meditations on the human condition.
The film features dozens of interviews with Frank’s friends, actors, engineers and closest associates and weaves the stories together with a wide variety of Frank’s radio shows to reveal his art, creative process and personal life.
The film screens tonight, March 23, at 6:30 p.m. at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building.
“The Song of Sway Lake” - The narrative film is billed as a “lush romantic drama about the vanished grace of America, and the spell cast by the melodies of the dead.”
It’s summer on Sway Lake, the most glamorous lake in the Adirondacks - former playground of the jazz-age New York aristocracy. Music collector Ollie Sway recruits his only friend, a rowdy Russian drifter, to help him steal a 78 record from his own family’s estate. Ollie believes that this mysterious piece of music, recorded at his grandparents’ wedding by Cole Porter’s lover, was hidden for him by his father before his suicide. He believes possessing the record will change his life.
The boys’ mission should be as easy as meeting a pretty girl on the water, but the arrival of the beguiling matriarch herself, Charlie Sway, changes everything. For Charlie has her own plans. And this song that hasn’t been heard in half a century may possess the answer to the deepest riddles about love and death.
The film screens today, March 23, at 9 a.m. at Burlingame Hall and Sunday, March 25, at 1:45 p.m. at Vintage House.
“Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World” - The documentary tells the little-known story of the role of Native Americans in popular music history. And brings to light a profound and missing chapter in the history of American music, the Indigenous influence. Featuring music icons Charley Patton, Mildred Bailey, Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix, Jesse Ed Davis, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson, Randy Castillo, and Taboo, and also features a who’s who of popular musicians in the soundtrack and in interviews, such as Buddy Guy, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Bennett, Taj Mahal, Cyril Neville, Ivan Neville, Martin Scorsese, Quincy Jones, John Trudell, Steven Tyler, Derek Trucks, Corey Harris, Guy Davis, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Monk Boudreaux, George Clinton, Jackson Browne, Slash and many others.
The film screens today, March 23, at 6:30 p.m. at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art and again on Saturday, March 24, at 11:45 a.m. at the Vets Building.
“The Velvet Underground Played at My High School” - This animated short by Anthony Jannelli and Robert Pietri and was funded by a kickstarter campaign, tells the actual story of the legendary Velvet Underground’s first gig at Summit High School that turned out anything but good.
While on stage for merely 20 minutes, the Velvet Underground performed three songs – “There She Goes Again” (about a prostitute) “Venus in Furs” (about S&M), and “Heroin.” The Summit High School audience responded with, as bandmember Sterling Morrison recalled in 1983, a “murmur of surprise that greeted our appearance” that “increased to a roar of disbelief as we started to play” which “swelled to a mighty howl of outrage and bewilderment…” Half the audience walked out.
The film screens before both performances of “Rumble.”