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Doc'nRoll festival banner 2019Doc ‘N Roll Manchester: Music Shorts – Film Review

Dir. Hannah Currie, UK, 2018, 23 mins

Dirs. Anthony Jannelli and Robert Pietri, USA, 2017, 8 mins

Dir. Nicholas Jones, UK, 2018, 16 mins

Dir. Opiyo Okeyo, USA, 2017, 7 mins

Dir. Fran Broadhurst, UK, 2018, 13 mins


Oldham Street, Manchester

29th May 2019

Manchester’s leg of this year’s Doc ‘N Roll festival got underway last night with a showcase of music based documentary shorts at Gulliver’s on Oldham Street.

We Are All Here, provided a close-up and incredibly personal account of the tragically short life of Glaswegian rapper Lumo, searching for expression and redemption through music, alcohol and religion before unexpectedly taking his own life.  We see his vlog footage, encouraging others to confide in those they trust and seek help for mental illness, created at a time when by his own admission he was contending with exactly those issues himself.  The film is a sharp reminder of how outward appearances can mask underlying mental health issues in the most overtly confident people.

The Velvet Underground Played At My High School is an animated account of the mighty VU’s early public performance back in the 60’s.  It’s an homage to the great psychedelic engineers of the counter culture from a first person perspective that focuses on the shock of the performance, the music, the presentation and the content.  As the narrator speaks we see the way he felt about it then – or at least the way he now interprets the way he felt about it then – represented in flights of fancy in beautiful black and white animation.  We see him at the show as a regular guy there to see the music before Venus In Furs drones across the hall and we see him boggle-eyed in the front row, his tongue lolling over someone’s leather stage boots.  I imagine it is almost impossible to convey the true impact of the Velvets in today’s highly fragmented media-consuming society in which we all pursue our own furrows, as outraged or reassured by the word as we want to be.  But through this clever animation, some of the dark spirit of the Velvet Underground, laced with the kind of self-effacing humour also much overlooked in their whole presentation, is very much evident.

You Are Here follows events in the current life of Charlatans keyboard player, Tony Rodgers, who manages to balance being a rock star with tending to his own small cattle farm.  We see Rodgers delivering a lamb and a calf, slipping down corrugated metal roofs in the rain and herding sheep with his dogs.  There is perhaps an uneasy humour in the strange ambivalence of Rodgers’ life, interspersed with his comments on how although there is no money in small-scale farming, he doesn’t have to be concerned with paying energy bills as he can always throw another log on the fire.  Or shift a few more albums?  The magic in this film is in the editing.  Nicholas Jones has condensed his film perfectly into 16 minutes.

In The Birth of Afrobeat, we see Tony Allen evolve into the Afrobeat percussive legend he is today.  Whereas other forms of jazz eschewed the hi-hat, Allen felt focused in on it as the element he felt was missing in his own playing.  Now everyone dances to the beat of Tony’s drum.  The snippets of Afrobeat featured here, incidentally, as the musicians warmed up around Tony, will make you want more, that’s for sure.

The showcase finished with To The Front: Scenes From A Women’s Rock Camp.  The most positively inspiring film on offer in this selection, here we see how unacquainted women, with no previous experience of performing and playing music become involved in a project to do just that in just three days.  It’s an empowering journey and even at just 13 minutes long, Fran Broadhurst reveals the interplay, the dynamics and just what it means to see people go from zero to full on goal-realisation in a short time.  It’s a beautiful insight into the human condition, revealing vulnerability and strength in equal measure.  As the closing credits rolled, in my head the exit music was PJ Harvey’s Victory.

To The Front: Scenes From A Women's Rock Camp

Check out the full listings for Doc’N Roll here.

All words by Lee Ashworth. More writing by Lee Ashworth can be found at his author’s archive. Lee Ashworth is also on twitter as @Lee_Ashworth_ and has a website here.  He is one half of The Manchester Art Authority.






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