Have artist/band documentaries saturated the film industry?
I can’t imagine a life without music. Music is so intertwined into daily life that it almost feels like background melodies to our own movie. I remember that as a young girl I would memorize my favorite lyrics (unfortunately, this would sometimes include Salt N’ Pepper at the age of eight), put on my glitziest, most sequenced clothing, and go perform in front of my family. It made me feel alive to pour my soul out singing Ace of Base songs. Ah, the good ole’ days.
As much as I love music, I have begun to notice that documentaries about musicians and bands have recently saturated the film industry. In spirit of the upcoming Amy Winehouse documentary, “Amy,” I decided to discuss the history of the band/musician documentaries, evaluate the value of this genre of documentaries, and whether they have a future.
In 1954 the first motion picture about a band was “The Glenn Miller Story.” This film focused on orchestra band leader, Glenn Miller, his revival of the swing bands, and his marriage. So, not the most interesting storyline according to today’s standards. However, this documentary was nominated for Academy Awards and won an Oscar. Documentaries about musicians/bands went on to cover punk rock, jazz musicians, reggae, and heavy metal.
Since that time musician/band documentaries have dug deep for interesting storylines, speculated about issues surrounding the musician/band, and were touched by some of the most creative directors (such as Martin Scorsese). Yet, have the documentaries gone too far? The upcoming documentary “Amy” has received much criticism by her family and friends for its alleged false depiction of Amy Winehouse’s relationship with her father. Her father has called the film and its portrayal of their relationship as “misleading and untrue.” Similarly, the premise of the 1998 documentary about Kurt Cobain, “Kurt and Courtney,” focuses on the idea that Courtney Love was involved with his death. This has sparked former police Chief, Norm Stamper, to proclaim that he would re-open Cobain’s death for further investigation. C’mon, doesn’t this seem a bit much? I think band/musician documentaries have become the new form of reality television for artistic viewers.
My next question for you is do they have a future? Yes. As long as there are fans out there who care about Amy Winehouse’s unexpected death and conspiracy theories, the artistic value of documentaries like “The Last Waltz,” or just care for the purity of the music like “The History of the Eagles” (a personal favorite), there will be new documentaries. Let’s just hope that the documentaries stay as biographies with close insight into the artists’ lives and not another excuse to fill our heads with drama-filled falsehoods.