SIFF 2013: Hearing What's On Screen for Face The Music

Chris Estey

The Seattle International Film Festival has had a succulent series of movies based on sounds for a while, sponsored by KEXP and called Face The Music. Whether they be documentaries or fictional narratives or band concerts or somewhere in between, up to a dozen independent and/or international films are presented every year along with one-of-a-kind live events. Tickets are already on sale, and it’s highly recommended you get ‘em early -- the opening gala with Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing sold out instantly.

SIFF 2013 is particularly a rager for music fans who also love movies, especially those who dig the mingling of the underground with the accessible, the unique with the delectable, the local with the bigger picture. I personally have never been more excited about a SIFF year, the line-up of which has a lot of artists I already love, and also want to know more about. Below is an near-complete list of music-based events and films that will be presented; there are still more details being prioritized on my own worksheet and behind the scenes that we will report on and cover as the festival gets underway starting on May 16, and running through June 9, 2013.

SIFF 2013 also features two Triple Door concert events curated by KEXP’s Hannah Levin: The first, on May 27 at 7 PM, is a full-on shout out to the Muscle Shoals documentary in the film line-up getting a tribute from Patterson and Dave Hood also featuring Jeff Fielder and friends. These are some of the best musicians in the country and should not be missed (film or concert). Then it’s another awesome work of synergy with regional heroes The Maldives live-scoring the Lillian Gish movie The Wind (1928), for two sets on June 7, at 7:30 and 9 PM.

Here’s a list of what’s appearing in the official Face The Music line-up this year:

  • The Otherside: A very timely doc about home-grown Emerald City hip-hop featuring many faces you’ll recognize from shows and audiences and national media (including KEXP); yep, Macklemore is in it, but so are Shabazz Palaces, Blue Scholars, Fresh Espresso, and others, as well as a study of the dance-rap phenomenon Massive Monkeys (a huge international underground surrounds their break-dancing existence here). Premieres May 31 at 7 PM and shows again on June 2 at 8:30 PM at SIFF Cinema Uptown.

  • A Band Called Death: Lots of great buzz about this doc of a little-known group of Detroit-based Black Rock innovators and proto-punk players which started out in gospel and went full-on skronk when no one was prepared to listen. Come find out about the origins of Afro-punk which means a lot of family stories and fear from unprepared listeners in the early-mid 70s. I have a ton of fan-boy questions I am eager to hear revelations on; those with a specific interest in how reissues come to be should probably catch it for those details as well. Premieres May 18 at 3 PM and plays once more at May 28 at 9 PM at SIFF Cinema Uptown.

  • The Punk Singer: A doc on keen cultural catalyst and gale-driving creative force Kathleen Hanna, including raw footage and crackling anecdotes and zine covers and protesting belly-graffiti through her days in Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. (Here's hoping Julie Ruin pops in too!) An actual Beastie Boy and Joan Jett cover the wingman angle, among others, but really it’s going to be exciting to see clips of KH's performing boundaries-bashing music on a big screen just for itself (okay, all her rants ought to be awesome too). Yes, the concert film/doc of Le Tigre shown at a previous SIFF was a taste for the whole Hannah experience (what a double feature that would be, the two of 'em together). Shows May 24 at 9:30 PM, and again May 26 at 1:30 PM at the Harvard Exit.

  • Peaches Does Herself: Whether you only know her from club hit “Fuck The Pain Away” (ah, misty, piss-drunk early '00s memories) or have been keeping up with the bold artistic-political moves she’s been doing from the underground since, Peaches always provokes response, warm or otherwise. This is called a “jukebox musical with a sex change” and features her keyboard-driven, performance art-terrorism to the absolute breaking point. A total queer-revolutionary dance party, don’t miss it even if you've missed a recent release or two. It shows on May 25, 9:30 PM, and then again May 27, 9 PM, at the Egyptian (great venue for it, where they used to have killer punk shows back in the day).

  • Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me: Big Star continues to inspire and influence band after band after band, having somehow managing to combine garage roots with glam-punk and birthing the twins power pop and college rock in the early 70s. Led by Box Tops mop-topped teen Alex Chilton, their legend is as ferocious as their original oeuvre is both required and minimal (two official LPs, one amorphous evolutionary statement with enough material for its own documentary). This might be the biggest thrill for many KEXP listeners; I imagine a lot of people you love are going to give them tons of love in the documentary. Great footage (!!) and the works, finally arriving in Seattle on May 21, at 9 PM, and then May 26, 8:30 PM, at SIFF Cinema Uptown.

  • Mistaken For Strangers: Filmmaker Matt Berninger shoots his life on tour with The National, a band which features his older brother Matt as lead singer. Reflecting the idiosyncratic, melancholy, chaotic personal creativity of whatever the Brooklyn band’s on about, it’s going to be great to get some intimate moments and movie theater sound about and around this mesmerizing band. Shows at The Egyptian on May 20 and 21, at 7 and 4 PM respectively, with Tom Berninger scheduled to attend both screenings.

  • Sing Me The Songs That Say I Love You - A Concert For Kate McGarrigle: This one is going to be a huge, harmonious tearjerker, due to the aching tragedy of losing Kate McGarrigle, a divine multi-genre (and language) singer-songwriter from the 70s. But her blazingly-talented kids Rufus and Martha Wainwright (with beloved guests) show and play us just why she should be revered and will be very much missed. May 25, 4:30 PM at the Egyptian, and again May 27 at 6 PM at the SIFF Cinema Uptown.

Also included this year: Along with the Muscle Shoals doc (May 29 at 7 PM at SIFF Cinema Uptown; May 30 at 7 PM at the Egyptian) is a deep-devotional to back-up singers for the stars titled Twenty Feet From Stardom (June 1 and 2 at the Egyptian); and legendary Filipino axe-man going home again in Harana (showing May 25 and 26 at the SIFF Cinema Uptown).

Related News & Reviews


SIFF 2013 Face The Music Preview: A Band Called Death

A Band Called DeathDirected by Jeff Howlett(USA, 2012, 98 minutes)

Read More