Since Robert Redford founded it in 1978, the annual Sundance Film Festival has become a fixture in launching independent cinema. Many films have gone on to win or be nominated for awards after being screened at the famous Park City, Utah, festival—most recently, Academy Award “Best Picture” nominee Whiplash, which tells the story of a young jazz drummer and his formidable mentor.
This year, like Whiplash, a number of films and documentaries at Sundance feature music in a prominent role. We’re excited for these projects, inspired by artists like Daft Punk, Nina Simone, Nirvana and more:
When it comes to influential French DJs, you’ve probably heard of Daft Punk, the critically acclaimed robot-head-wearing duo behind 2013’s smash hit “Get Lucky.” But unless you were partying in Paris 20 years ago, you might not know Sven Løve, the DJ and producer who helped spread the French house music movement across the world in the early 1990s. Based on his life, Eden is a fictionalized account co-written by Løve and his sister, director Mia Hansen-Løve, exploring the rise and fall of a DJ breaking into the Parisian club scene. Spanning several decades, Eden is an ode to youth, passion and undoubtedly, electronic music.
Eunice Kathleen Waymon had never intended to become a singer—much less the “High Priestess of Soul”—but when a music school denied her admission as a classical pianist, she shed her old dreams and took on a new career under the name of Nina Simone. Already generating buzz, Netflix and Radical Media’s What Happened, Miss Simone? explores the many complexities that ruled Simone’s life, from her passionate work in civil rights activism to her music, a category-defying blend of jazz, blues and classical. With new tapes, archival footage and interviews of friends and family, Oscar-nominated director Liz Garbus attempts to answer the question posed by Dr. Maya Angelou in 1970: “What happened, Miss Simone? …To your voice, that has so little tenderness, yet overflows with your commitment to the battle of Life? What happened to you?”
Long before his 1994 suicide shocked the nation, Kurt Cobain had already cemented his place as an American musical icon with his emotive voice, wicked guitar riffs and often-tempestuous personal life. While a number of documentaries have been made about him since his death, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is the first to be “fully authorized” by his estate, featuring previously unseen home movies, recordings, artwork, songs and more from his family archives. The culmination of eight years’ worth of work, Oscar-nominated director Brett Morgen produces a tribute not only to Cobain but also the grunge era and generation of youth who grew up listening to Nirvana.
Andrés Caicedo, the Colombian author who wrote the book on which Liveforever was based, didn’t live to see the adaptation of his cult favorite novel, ¡Que viva la música!, being made. On the afternoon it was published, Caicedo committed suicide, but his legacy as a prominent figure in Colombian literature lives on now in film. Liveforever explores the journey of a girl leaving her cushy home in Cali, Colombia, to enter a world of drugs, sexuality and dance, losing herself in the seedy underbelly of the “World Capital of Salsa.” Provocative and wild, Liveforever is a film about the transformative power of music and one teenager’s quest to pursue it.
If you’re braving the cold in Park City right now, you won’t want to miss these films and documentaries! And between screenings, take a shuttle down to the ASCAP Music Café to see some of your favorite Levitt artists. Jamestown Revival, John Fullbright, Civil Twilight and Baskery will be performing throughout the festival, so head to 751 Main Street to catch their shows, free and open to all festival credential holders 21 and older.
Which Sundance films are you looking forward to?