Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes

The Beat Film Festival focuses on the off-stage lives of musicians.

Published: May 30, 2012 (Issue # 1710)

‘Beats Rhymes and Life,’ following the American rap group A Tribe Called Quest, will be shown at the festival.

We download their music and become familiar with their voices. We would recognize them on the street and we envy their swagger. But what do we really know about our favorite musicians? After this weekend, hopefully a little bit more.

The Beat Film Festival, which will take place from Thursday, May 31 through Sunday, June 3 at Dom Kino movie theater, will screen six documentaries featuring some of the most famous names in music: Talking Heads, Bob Marley and A Tribe Called Quest, to name a few. This will be the first year the Beat Film Festival, which was founded three years ago in Moscow, will be presented in St. Petersburg.

The six documentaries to be shown vary greatly in both subject and form — from punk rock dads to an Icelandic grandmother and 16mm film to Hollywood big budget.

“We have made this year’s program very accessible and audience-oriented knowing that we will be bringing it to other cities apart from Moscow,” said Alyona Bocharova, the festival’s executive producer.

“It revolves around big names, both in terms of music and film.”

By screening internationally renowned films that are rarely shown in Russia, the Beat Film Festival hopes to inspire Russians. Organizers hope audiences will gather inspiration from the films and start creatively capturing the music being produced right at home.

The pride of this year’s festival is the film “Marley,” by Oscar-winning director Kevin MacDonald. The film, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year, examines both the personal and artistic life of Bob Marley. Using countless never-before-seen archives and interviews with Marley’s wife Rita, and with several of his 12 children, the film offers a definitive account of the man who became a revolutionary legend for people all over the world.

Two documentaries featuring punk music — “The Other F Word” and the Russian-language documentary “Fuck Fuck” — will also be shown. “The Other F Word,” produced by Morgan Spurlock, the brains behind “Supersize Me,” takes a thought-provoking look at how some of our most famous punk rockers — Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, and Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath to name a few — reconcile their status as the ultimate anti-authoritarians with their roles as the ultimate authoritarians: Fathers.

“Fuck Fuck,” an intimate documentary about the local ska punk group Leningrad, is the first Russian-language film to be featured in the Beat Film Festival.

“We were also interested in developing the local scene, and so this year we really wanted to show a Russian film,” said Bocharova.

A still from MacDonald’s ‘Marley.’

“We found a really good one, ‘Fuck Fuck,’ about Leningrad…It’s smart and funny.”

The fifth film to be shown is “Meeting People Is Easy,” directed by Grant Gee. The renowned documentary follows the influential British group Radiohead, the musicians behind classic albums such as “Kid A” and “The Bends” as they embarked on their 1998 world tour after the release of their third studio album, “OK Computer.”

“Radiohead is a band that has never performed in Russia but has a huge following here,” said Bocharova.

“The film is about…how a small band turns into a worldwide celebrity band. They perform at Glastonbury, receive a Grammy, and tour the world from Barcelona to various cities in Japan. The film, however, is not a story of fame, but rather about the other side of fame — how [singer] Thom York and other members of the band struggle with their stardom and responsibilities and the discomfort that it brings.”

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the film’s release.

“Beats Rhymes and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” by Michael Rapaport is a raucously fun hip hop documentary about one of the most influential and game changing American rap groups, A Tribe Called Quest. It is a must-see for any hip hop lover.

“Anton Corbijn Inside Out,” on the other hand, is about the more stoic Dutch photographer and music video director Anton Corbijn. Corbijn, who is known to be an intensely private person, has been photographing and working with some of the most public figures for years. In this film, some of his most famous subjects like Bono and Lou Dobbs share their insights on the man behind the lens.

The first film to be shown as part of the festival, “Grandma Lo-Fi: The Basement Tapes of Sigrídur Níelsdóttir,” is perhaps the most endearing of all this year’s selection. The Icelandic-Danish film, shot on Super-8 and 16mm film, focuses on a retired Icelandic woman who started writing music at the age of 70. Within seven years, she had recorded 59 albums and more than 600 songs and quickly became a cult hit in Iceland. Icelandic director Kristín Björk Kristjánsdóttir, also known as the singer Kira Kira, will introduce the film on Thursday and host a short QA session after the screening. Immediately afterward, Kira Kira will perform at Taiga creative center — located at 20 Dvortsovaya Naberezhnaya — for the festival’s official opening party.

The entry fee is 300 rubles ($9.40) for those with “Grandma Lo-Fi” ticket stubs and 400 rubles ($12.50) for others.

The Beat Film Festival runs from May 31 through June 3 at Dom Kino movie theater, 21 Karavannaya Ulitsa. M. Gostiny Dvor / Nevsky Prospekt. Tel. 314 5614. For a full schedule of events, visit

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