SBIFF Music on Film
Music Documentaries at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Feature Dionne Warwick, José Feliciano, and Peter Case
By Josef Woodard | March 3, 2022
Among the sundry avenues and sidebars in SBIFF’s programming in recent years, music has had a formidable presence. This has come partly through the advocacy of programmer Michael Albright, himself a documentarian who made a film about Sonic Youth. At times, reel life has intersected with the real, onstage musical item, as when Jakob Dylan and Sergio Mendes actually performed with their respective bands on the Lobero Stage, in sync with documentaries they appeared in.
This year’s menu is also stocked with musical themes, thanks to the “Cinematic Overtures/Performing Arts” sidebar. This section climaxes with the closing night slot given over to the doc Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over, with the mythic pop queen and activist appearing alongside the film about her at the Arlington Theatre. José Feliciano: Behind the Guitar pays tribute to another household name, the blind guitarist-singer from Puerto Rico who rose to considerable fame and carries on, 55 years into his career. Co-director and music industry bigwig Helen Murphy will be on hand for a Q&A.
Docs taking aim at more specialized corners of the music world promise to use the documentary forum to give credit due to lesser-known but worthwhile subjects. In the case of the Canadian-made doc Fanny: The Right to Rock, the subject is the legendary Filipina-American band Fanny, cited as one of the first important all-female rock bands in the early ’70s. No less an admirer than David Bowie effused, “They’re as important as anybody else who’s ever been: It just wasn’t their time.”
Peter Case: A Million Miles Away, directed by Fred Parnes, brings us the story of Case, whose rambling and rangy career took him from the critical fave power-pop band The Plimsouls through a solo career coursing naturally into the later-blooming “Americana” scene. (Local note: Case also released the 1993 album Sings Like Hell, which became the fitting name for a long-running concert series at the Lobero Theatre, run by Peggie Jones, and including several shows by Case himself.)
Further out on the edge of unique intrigues, Sirens, directed by Rita Baghdadi, gives us the saga of Lebanon’s first “all-female thrash metal band.” Why not?
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