For over ten years increasingly popular genre of music documentary has been an integral part of the film programme of the Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX festival. Where is the development of this original connection of music and film going? How is it received by the audiences? We have asked Adam Thorsmark, programmer of the Sound & Vision festival section.
For over ten years, the rather unique yet increasingly popular genre of music documentary has been an integral part of the film programme of the Danish member of the Doc Alliance platform, Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX festival. Where is the development of this original, equal connection of music and film going? How is it received by the audiences? How did the Copenhagen team come up with the idea of such a “pioneering” work with the genre of music documentary at all? We have asked all that in our virtual conversation with Adam Thorsmark, programmer of the Sound & Vision festival section.
When was the idea of creating a special film festival category Sound & Vision born? What was your motivation to start to programme this very unique film section?
The idea began before I started here, actually the very first year of CPH:DOX, way back in 2003. We were one of the first film festivals to dedicate an entire film series to new music documentaries. It was started because CPH:DOX wanted to support the already happening growth spurt in well-created music documentaries, which started to boom in the early 00’s. Films such as Dig! and The Devil and Daniel Johnston were films that had a new, cinematic take on the more classic VH1 Behind the Music-style documentaries on bands. And doing this in the last 10 years, I only think the “genre” has grown to be even more unpredictable and enticing.
What is the response from your audience like? Has it been changing in the course of the years?
The Sound & Vision series has been a very popular series amongst our audience right from the beginning. Perhaps because we also try to do a lot of events surrounding the films. Either we have the band come and play after the film screening or have a special event or party tied up to the screening.
Do you have any comparison with other international film festivals if there is any similar example of such a strong focus on the cross-section of music and (documentary) film?
SXSW, Sundance, Tribeca, Hot Docs like us also typically have pretty strong music film programmes. Since we started, there have been some festivals focusing only on music films, such as In-Edit in Barcelona, CIMM Fest in Chicago and Musikfilmfestivalen in Copenhagen in April.
What keeps you still so deeply interested in the relationship of music and film?
The combination of music and film never ceases to fascinate. There’s always new music stories to be told, and new progressive ways to tell these stories. That’s also the reason why we decided to create our own concert series AUDIO:VISUALS, where we ask bands and visual artists or filmmakers to create something unique, and often in alternative venues. But also just showing a music film before a concert with the same band creates a great sense of anticipation. One great example from last year is Buraka Som Sistema, who played an amazing show after the screening of the film “Off the Beaten Track” about the band.
Which films do you consider to be on the top list of music docs you have presented at the CPH:DOX?
Some of the ones which have joined Doc Alliance Films now are definitely amongst some of my favourites from the past years. Efterklang: The Ghost of Piramida is such a cinematic treat, Petey & Ginger is a really well-told story. And a film like Unplugged shows just how music documentaries can come from anywhere in the world, and even be about something as un-glamorous as a small Serbian village where the people are playing something as primordial as leaves. The film is beautifully shot and surprisingly amusing, so it‘s always wonderful when you get surprising films as these each year.
What are your future plans for the Sound & Vision series? Should we expect any big surprise in November?
Last month we showed some films from music film favourites and new films at the Aarhus music, film and interactive SPOT Festival, and we might be doing this again next year. We’ve also screened Nordic music docs at JA JA JA Festival in London last year, and might be doing this again sometime. Regarding our own program in November, I won’t spoil anything just yet, but let’s just say the music films we have confirmed so far are looking good. Real good :).
Thank you for your time, Adam, as well as for your great work at Sound & Vision programme. We will definitely come to Copenhagen this year again to find out which new surprising and original music documentaries you have prepared for us.
Andrea of the DAFilms.com team
Doc Alliance is a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.