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    Music documentaries at Warsaw Film Festival

    By Klag David | February 12, 2011

    The extensive selection of documentaries unspooling at last year’s Warsaw Film Festival included several features devoted to music, be it one specific genre, artist, band or music scene. Most of them, however, steered away from a traditional approach to offer glimpses into music history of the past, present or possible future.

    The term of “taqwacore” seems like it is coined by desperate music journalists who want to categorise and justify a genre they have just discovered. The word, however, comes from the book The Taqwacores, by Michael Muhammad Knight, one of the characters at the centre of Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam. Knight, a devoted white Muslim with a troubled family background, published his novel about a fictious Islamic punk rock scene in 2003 that made young North American Muslims interested in punk music. The taqwacore scene was born, and Omar Majeed’s documentary follows several bands from it, as well as Knight’s visit to Pakistan. Unfortunately, Taqwacore: The Birth Of Punk Islam falters in its second part, losing some of the energy of its raw and funny first half that chronicles a tour undertaken by the bands in the US in a rundown schoolbus decorated with left-wing paraphenalia, and culminating in a rowdy and undeniable punk gig at the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America. A fictionalised version of Knight’s novel, titled The Taqwacores, by Eyad Zahra was also screened in Warsaw in the Discoveries section.

    A more traditional approach is taken by Germany’s Silvia Beck in her documentary about one of the most well-known arthouse film score and modern composers in general, Michael Nyman. Nyman in Progress benefits from concert footage of the Nyman Band, but other scenes prove to be lackluster. Despite small vignettes about Nyman – such as playing on an untuned piano in a Berlin basement – his personality remains undefined and ultimately crushed under the weight of his work, which recently also includes video art. At best, Nyman in Progress resembles an uncut version of a television documentary – a sequence devoted to the composer seeking out his family’s past in Poland, à la BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? – only strengthens comparison.

    Whereas Nyman in Progress seems unsure on how to chronicle its subject, Robert Patton-Spruill’s Do It Again gives the clear vision of its protagonist, Geoff Edgers, the music journalist of the financially troublesome Boston Globe. Edgers has set himself an impossible goal: he aims to reunite The Kinks. Edgers is also acting as the producer of the project and it may come as no surprise that this documentary is more about him than his favourite band.

    Klág Dávid – A graduate of Film Studies and English at Budapest University, Dávid works for the Mozine and Filmvilág magazines, edits the film section of Time Out Budapest and occasionally writes for music and film websites. 

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