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SXSW 2024 Film: Preview of Music Documentaries

The 2024 South by Southwest (SXSW) Film & TV Festival lineup has been released. This year’s film festival, which runs March 8-16 in Austin, Texas, includes 115 features (89 of which are world premieres) and over 80 short films, including 19 music videos.

Since 2020, 360°Sound has provided our readers with exclusive coverage of the music documentaries at SXSW. We’ll be at it again next month at this 31st edition of the film fest. Editor-in-chief Chris Bisha and I will be on the ground in Austin bringing you coverage of not only the film fest but the music fest as well.

We combed through the extensive list of features and selected the 12 music-related documentaries that we’re most looking forward to. The following film synopses were culled from the SXSW site. Unfortunately, most of the trailers for these docs are not yet available, but we’ve included relevant videos with each.

This is a Film About the Black Keys

Director: Jeff Dupre

This is a Film About the Black Keys traces Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney’s journey from a jamming session in a basement in Akron, Ohio, to rock ‘n’ roll super-stardom. They barely knew each other when they made their first recordings, yet quickly realized they shared a powerful musical connection and a drive to succeed. Touring relentlessly for 10 years, the duo navigated the highs and lows of life on the road, finally reaching escape velocity with their hit records Brothers and El Camino. As so many forces have threatened to pull them apart, the band has managed to stick together. Twenty-four years later, they’re tighter than ever, still making great music and still asking what’s next.

Swamp Dogg Gets His Pool Painted

Directors: Isaac Gale and Ryan Olson

Hidden away, deep in the suburbs of Los Angeles, legendary cult musician Swamp Dogg, alongside housemates Moogstar and Guitar Shorty, have transformed their home into an artistic playground. Together, they navigate the tumultuous music industry, forging a unique and inspiring bond across time and space.

The World According to Allee Willis

Director: Alexis Spraic

Take one look at award-winning songwriter/artist Allee Willis and you see someone unafraid to be themselves. Dressed in a cacophony of prints and colors, her signature asymmetrical haircut and famed parties at her real-life PeeWee’s Playhouse, Allee didn’t waste any opportunity to tell you what she was about. But privately, Allee struggled with not fitting established gender and sexual norms. She buried herself in her work until true love manifested her ultimate masterpiece – self-acceptance. Allee began filming her life in 1950s Detroit and never stopped. This film is the realization of her wish that her “final art piece be someone putting together the trail I have left behind.”

Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story

Directors: Michael Mabbott and Lucah Rosenberg-Lee

Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story reveals the extraordinary rise to fame, sudden disappearance, and resurgence of trailblazing Black trans soul singer Jackie Shane. Told in her own voice through never-before-heard phone conversations and dynamic rotoscope animation – alongside her family’s powerful journey to discover her legacy – the film conjures the spirit of an ahead-of-her-time icon who dared to live life on her own terms, even when it came at a great personal cost.

Diane Warren: Relentless

Director: Bess Kargman

Diane Warren, a prolific songwriter with an unparalleled track record of writing mega-hits for industry giants, emerges as a force to be reckoned with in Diane Warren: Relentless. Boasting 15 Academy Award nominations, an Honorary Oscar along with Grammy, Emmy, and Golden Globe Awards, Diane has etched her name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame and is responsible for the soundtrack of our lives. In this intimate documentary, filled with Diane’s signature humor, audiences get a rarely seen glimpse into Diane’s life and underdog journey to where she is today. Marked by a distinctive songwriting approach, unconventional life choices, and an exceptional work ethic with a touch of irreverence, the narrative unfolds, delving into her most remarkable collaborations with first-hand commentary from Cher, Gloria Estefan, David Foster, Jennifer Hudson, Kesha and many more to showcase the creative genius that is Diane Warren.

Omar and Cedric: If This Ever Gets Weird

Director: Nicolas Jack Davies

This is the story of two immigrant outsiders, Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala (At the Drive-in, The Mars Volta), and their desire to create their own place in the world. Told through intimate self-shot footage, Omar and Cedric charts the duo’s intense and profound journey of brotherhood, love, fame, betrayal and sacrifice. Tackling themes of addiction, grief and redemption, it’s an intimate portrait of lifelong friendship and a look at the world through a whole new creative prism.

Resynator

Director: Alison Tavel

Inventor Don Tavel died suddenly when his daughter was 10 weeks old. Growing up surrounded by mythical stories of her “genius” father, Alison’s life is consequently absent from any true connection to him. Resynator is a narrative documentary that begins when Alison rescues Don’s synthesizer prototype from her grandmother’s attic and starts a curious resurrection project that turns into an insatiable globe-trotting quest. Aided by estranged family, lost friends, fellow inventors and celebrated musicians (Grace Potter, Peter Gabriel, Fred Armisen, Gotye, Jon Anderson and more), Alison unlocks unsettling secrets and complex truths – through which a father/daughter relationship is finally born.

Faders Up: The John Aielli Experience

Directors: David Hartstein and Sam Wainwright Douglas

Faders Up takes a cinematic deep dive into the extraordinary life and career of iconic KUTX radio host John Aielli. With a legacy spanning over 50 years on air, Aielli was enigmatic and controversial, and had a profound influence on Austin’s musical diversity and cultural landscape. He’s best known for his free-form style of sprawling interviews, technical snafus, and stream-of-consciousness musings on art and life, but who was John Aielli off the air? How did a gifted, young opera protege from small-town Killeen evolve into the legendary voice of Austin? The name of Aielli’s show, “Eklektikos,” meant “chosen from the best.” The best of what? Only he knew for sure.

Mogwai: If The Stars Had Sound

Director: Antony Crook

Twenty-five years and 10 studio albums – using brute sonic force mixed with subtlety and grace – Mogwai have defined their own musical genre. Described as “the blueprint for what an independent group should be” (John Doran, The British Masters), Mogwai built a cult following by staying true to their sound and true to their roots. The film takes us on a journey from their very beginnings, in the mid-1990s, to the band writing and rehearsing their 10th studio album in their hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 – a record made during lockdown. While at first seemingly impossible to make, they ultimately made history with it.

How Music Got Free

Director: Alexandria Stapleton

How Music Got Free tells the gripping true story of Dell Glover, a CD factory worker from Shelby, North Carolina, who led the music piracy revolution by collaborating with a group of teen hackers. The film explores the rise and fall of piracy groups, legal battles, FBI investigations, and the impact on artists and executives. It delves into the secret history of the music industry and the true patient zero of music piracy. Narrated by Method Man with interviews from Eminem, 50 Cent, Rocsi Diaz, Timbaland and more, it captures the clash between traditional music distribution and the digital revolution.

Billy Preston: That’s The Way God Planned It

Director: Paris Barclay

With his signature gospel sound on the Hammond B3, Billy Preston double-handedly elevated the greatest artists of his time – from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, from Aretha Franklin to Eric Clapton, from Ray Charles to Barbra Streisand to Sly and the Family Stone. The film explores Preston’s career and influence on generations of musicians, as he scored several number-one hits of his own and became one of the most sought-after musicians in the world. He did all of this as a soul divided – by his deep roots in the church, in constant conflict with his identity as a gay Black man, searching for a family of his own that would accept him for who he was.

Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told

Directors: Geraldine L. Porras and P. Frank Williams

From executive producers Luke Campbell, Jermaine Dupri and 21 Savage, and masterfully crafted by Mass Appeal & Swirl Films, Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told is a celebratory exploration of the boisterous times of Freaknik, the iconic Atlanta street party that drew hundreds of thousands of people in the ’80s and ’90s, helping put Atlanta on the cultural map. What began as a Black college cookout, soon became known for lurid tales of highway hookups and legendary late-night parties that ultimately led to the festival’s downfall. At its height, Freaknik was a traffic-stopping, city-shuttering juggernaut that has since become a cult classic.

Stay tuned to 360°Sound for SXSW film reviews, director interviews, and more. See you in Austin!

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