MIFF Backbeat Highlights

Come on a sonic journey with MIFF’s expanded Backbeat music documentary program featuring some of the most fascinating characters in contemporary music.

Take a look at what happens when the music industry bites back, with Artifact. Produced and directed by actor/musician Jared Leto, the film centres on his emo band Thirty Seconds To Mars who were platinum-sellers in 2008, but hadn’t seen a cent of royalties. When they tried to exit their contract, their label sued them for $30 million. Chosen as the People’s Choice Documentary Award winner at the Toronto International Film Festival.

In a similar space is Downloaded. The story of Napster’s Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker, this doco was directed by none other than Alex Winter (Bill, from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) and chronicles Napster’s rocketing rise to global fame and its spectacular crash. Talking heads in the film include Fanning and Parker, as well as musings from Noel Gallagher, Henry Rollins and Beastie Boy Mike D.

Over in New Orleans, we discover Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker. Described by Dr John as “The best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced”, this ‘60s outcast was marginalised by his sexuality, disability and race. But he was also an unparalleled musical genius. Producer Nathaniel Kohn is a guest of the festival.

Nearby in the tiny Alabama town of Muscle Shoals, some of the most creative and celebrated funk and soul music in American history has been made by a group of white session musicians and black singers, who unexpectedly smashed the racist cultural barriers of the time. Stars like The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Lynyrd Skynyrd were drawn to record at Muscle Shoals FAME studios – this is a rollicking good time doco.

There’s tons more to check out in Backbeat, and while you’re at it, listen to playlists from MIFF’s Backbeat program on Spotify at melbintfilmfest.

Lauren Zoric is the Marketing and Communications Officer at the Melbourne International Film Festival.