Sometimes films are like buses, you wait and wait and then three come along at once. These days it seems as if music documentaries are the buses of the film world, not a lot for ages and then suddenly they are everywhere. In the last 12 months Dogwoof have released some pretty stunning music docs that cover the breadth of world music, from American funk and soul in 2013's release Muscle Shoals, to indie rock in Mistaken for Strangers, to riot grrrl punk and feminist electro in The Punk Singer and Afrobeat in the upcoming release Finding Fela.
Each has its very own, unique fanbase but the stories of the bands, the struggles and the music appealed to a wider audience. Not many people outside the music industry know of Muscle Shoals, a small town in the deep south of America which produced some of the funkiest music of the 1960's and 70's, artists who recorded in the small Tennessee studios included: Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Cliff, The Rolling Stones and Percy Sledge. The story of a small town with a big sound captures the hearts of audiences who thought that it was Detroit and Motown exclusively that produced these unforgettable songs.
Kathleen Hanna, singer and feminist icon, after years of touring and releasing albums sudden disppeared from the music scene, what happened to the woman to spearheaded the Riot Grrrl feminist movement, the singer who declared: "I'm the girl you can't shut up"? The Punk Singer is a portrait of Hanna, her early years, her music, her feminism and why she just one day stopped performing. Not just for fans of her bands Le Tigre and Bikini Kill, The Punk Singer is an inspiring film about spirit and activism.
Brotherly love is the main theme in Mistaken for Strangers, the film about the indie mega band The National. Not just a tour film, Mistaken for Strangers explored what happens to brotherly relationships when one brother becomes much more successful than the other. More road trip and carry on touring, Mistaken for Strangers is a funny, touching film that anyone with a sibling can relate to.
Out in cinemas next month, Alex Gibney's Finding Fela is an extraordinary film about Nigerian musician and political activist Fela Kuti. To bring the story of this incredible man alive, Gibney cuts in archive footage with staged scenes from the Broadway Musical Fela! to bring Fela and his philosophy back to a new generation.
Four very different music docs that cover everything from politics and feminism to brotherly obligation, there's something for everyone in these docs whether you know the music or not.
Finding Fela is in UK cinemas 5th September, Muscle Shoals, The Punk Singer and Mistaken for Strangers are all on DVD and on-demand now.