Regional film festivals allow people to connect and validate our own life experience by truly being seen by others. Film festival attendees are often a unique breed of people. We are drawn together for a deep obsession with storytelling and at a film festival like Sound Unseen, which takes place in November in Minneapolis, Rochester and Austin, there’s a deep connection between music and film creatives. Now the Sound Unseen festival ends it’s 2023 run in Austin on December 7-9, with some replays and new premieres of its own.
As part of the jury alongside SagIndie’s Eliza Hajkova and Factory 25’s Matt Grady, we determined four top prizes between the shorts and features in the competition. We determined that the short film Taking Back the Groove would receive a special jury citation for an important story with a happy ending minus the note that many Black artists are not afforded the same privilege of having someone to help them navigate the system. The winning short, Black Strings, is a wonderful story on how music can heal but also provoke. It leaves a big impact quickly and deserves a larger discussion.
In the feature competition, we gave a special jury citation to Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall which honors a music scene and community that deserves so much more documentation. The film explores the underground dance scene of the Jamaican immigrant community in New York. The winning film, Born Innocent: The Redd Kross Story went beyond being a music documentary and delved into unique underbelly issues in the industry.
I also enjoyed out of competition Lost Ángel: The Genius of Judee Sill and Cypher, the spiritual platonic pairing at Sound Unseen at the Trylon Cinema, a lovely microcinema in Minneapolis. Cypher is now on Hulu and is a meta-fictional documentary about Tierra Whack and the rise of secret conspiracy societies that use fame to further agendas. Starting off as a more traditional music documentary, things began to unravel until we crossover from credible into bonker storylines. A fun film that feels more biographical for Tierra Whack and her career than a traditional film. The movie premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Lost Ángel: The Genius of Judee Sill is a 2022 documentary directed by Andy Brown and Brian Lindstrom about the first musician to sign with the Asylum label. While the majority of the musicians who went through the record label started by David Geffen went on to great acclaim such as Joni Mitchell and Linda Ronstadt, Sill was a non-conformist who didn’t do well with audiences despite being an insanely talented composer/songwriter and performer. A sad story of her downward spiral after believing she would rise from the ashes of her earlier heroin addiction and homelessness lasted only a short while before the American dream collapsed around her. What Cypher alludes and jokes about, Sill, saw the darker side of the dream of the musical industry.
If you’re in Austin, check out the upcoming events next weekend at soundunseen.com.
If you can’t attend in person, but want to experience a tiny bit of the weekend, the Sound Unseen Playlist on Spotify is a great way to jump in.
– Melanie Addington