Top 10 Music Documentaries
Written by Elina Deschere on 9 avril 2020
Euradio have picked out 10 of the best music documentaries to watch whilst you’re at home during lockdown, or whenever you like really – they aren’t time-sensitive! From documentaries about legendary musicians, to concert tours and a festival gone-wrong…there’s something here for everyone.
(1) Chavela (2017) by Daresha Kyi & Catherine Gund
Born in Costa Rica and raised in Mexico, Chavela Vargas was an iconic rancherous singer whose passionate renditions of Mexican popular music and triumphant return to the stage late in life brought her international fame. Filmmaker Catherine Gund lead a candid interview with the star and decades later, along with co-director Daresha Kyi, unearthed the footage to create an educational tribute to the singer.
(2) Whitney (2018) by Kevin Macdonald
Filled with behind-the-scenes archive footage, exclusive performances, and interviews with friends, family members and co-workers, Whitney is an intimate portrait of the iconic pop singer Whitney Houston. Directed by Oscar-winning Kevin Macdonald, he succeeds in unraveling the mystery behind this exceptionally talented artist and her troubled past.
(3) The Punk Singer (2013) by Sini Anderson
The Punk Singer looks at the life of activist, musician and cultural icon that is Kathleen Hanna. As founder of punk band Bikini Kill and advocate for the riot grrrl movement in the 90s, she quickly became one of the most outspoken feminist icons of her generation. The documentary delves into 20 years worth of archive footage, featuring interviews with Hanna and other musicians such as Kim Gordon and Joan Jett. It’s a fascinating overview of her pivotal career in the music industry.
(4) Amy (2015) by Asif Kapadia
Available to watch on Netflix, the documentary about prolific artist Amy Winehouse should definitely be on your watch list. The documentary tells the story of Amy’s journey of her career success followed by her rapid self destruction. It also explores Amy’s relationships with her family and boyfriends and how they influenced her music, a heartbreaking but insightful look into the career of one of Britain’s most incredible talents.
(5) What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015) by Liz Garbus
Liz Garbus’ documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone?” is about the voice, spoken and sung, of Nina Simone. The documentary is meticulously researched about the brilliant but troubled folk/jazz/soul artist, referring to a varied archive of audio interviews, diary pages and performance footage. It lets Simone (who died of cancer in 2003) answer the title question in her own words.
(6) Matangi/Maya/M.I.A (2018) by Steve Loveridge
Most well known for her infamous tracks ‘Paper Planes’ and ‘Bad Girls’, Maya Arulpragasam aka. M.I.A is a Sri-Lankan born artist who rose to fame around 2004. This documentary directed by Steven Loveridge, follows the 22 years of this rapper’s life where she shares her feelings on the controversies surrounding her music, public appearances and political activism. The documentary received the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018.
(7) Play Your Gender (2017) by Stephanie Clatterburg
An interesting and important look at the inequality in the music industry, where only 5% of producers are women. Juno-award winning musician Kinnie Starr investigates why, considering many of the most bankable pop stars in the world today are females. She speaks to industry stars and veterans on the realities of being a women in the industry in order to understand why there is such a disparity between women and men.
(8) The Beatles: Eight Days A Week (2016) by Ron Howard
The documentary-film The Beatles: Eight Days a Week follows the famous Liverpool band through the years of ‘Beatlemania’. A term coined in the 60s to describe the fans of the band and the many shows they performed from June of 1962 to the time they quit touring in August of 1966. The Beatles performed 815 times in 15 different countries and 90 cities around the world. This film recreates the tour experience through the eyes of the band and shows the inner workings of the four musicians. We see how they made decisions, made music and built a successful career together. For big fans of The Beatles, we also recommend ‘A Hard Day’s Night‘ – a musical, comedy film where the four musicians play themselves.
(9) Stop Making Sense (1984) by Jonathan Demme
Jonathan Demme directs this epic concert-movie about the New York post-punk, art band Talking Heads. He wonderfully captures the frantic energy of lead singer David Byrne across several shows at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in 1983. Byrne, first appears on an empty stage, armed with only an acoustic guitar, and is gradually joined by bassist Tina Weymouth, drummer Chris Frantz, keyboardist Jerry Harrison and backup singers as they perform the band’s biggest hits, also featuring Byrne in his famous oversized suit.
(10) Fyre (2019) by Chris Smith
Something a little different from the others. A great way to relive or recall a festival is through documentary, famous ones including Woodstock. If you’ve ever wondered what a festival gone (very) wrong looks like then wonder no further. Fyre: The greatest party that never happened is part documentary, part how (not) to organise a festival. Entrepreneur and ‘business’ man Billy McFarland and famous rapper Ja Rule were the minds behind it all, and promoted Fyre as a luxury music festival on a private island in the Bahamas with supermodels and A-List musical performances. They lured in many unlucky guests to buy the expensive tickets. Upon arrival, they realised the reality of the festival was far from what they were told on social media.
Those are our top 10 music documentaries to get stuck into. We hope you find the recommendations helpful!