A handful of music documentaries and music-related films highlight this year’s Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF), which takes place March 2-5 in Boulder, Colo.
Opening night film Immediate Family tells the story of the band that backed up numerous music legends including Linda Rondstadt, Jackson Browne, Stevie Nicks, and Phil Collins. Then on closing night (March 5) is Still Working 9 to 5, a documentary on making of the 1980 comedy starring Dolly Parton (who also wrote the theme song), Jane Fonda, and Lilly Tomlin.
In-between are documentaries on artists such as the Indigo Girls and Little Richard, a look into design firm Hipgnosis (who created iconic album covers for bands like Pink Floyd and Yes), and Chevalier, a film about the real-life Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, who becomes an esteemed violinist, composer, and member of French society.
Below are brief descriptions of the music-related films in the BIFF program this year.
Buffy Saint-Marie: Carry It On
Carry It On tells the story of Beverly (Buffy) Sainte-Marie, a full-blooded daughter of the Cree Nation, who was discovered singing in a coffeehouse by Bob Dylan. Songs of her such as anti-war anthem “Universal Soldier” and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” earned her an eight-year radio station blacklist by J. Edgar Hoover. She also became the first mother to breast-feed her baby on TV (on Sesame Street) and the first Indigenous person to win an Academy Award in 1983.
Chevalier tells the story of the real-life Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a French Creole virtuoso violinist and composer who was born in Guadeloupe in the Caribbean and rose to become a member of French society and conductor of the leading symphony orchestra in Paris.
This year, the festival’s opening night film is Immediate Family, a documentary by director Denny Tedesco that shines a light on a group of L.A. session musicians known collectively under the name the Immediate Family. Together they backed up a huge number of music legends including Linda Rondstadt, Warren Zevon, James Taylor, Carol King, Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, Lyle Lovett, and Phil Collins. Director Denny Tedesco and bandmembers Russ Kunkel and Steve Postell will attend in person, and the evening will be emceed by The Colorado Sound’s evening host Ron Bostwick.
It’s Only Life After All
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have been making music on their own and as members of folk-rock group the Indigo Girls for 40 years. They earned widespread attention (and a GRAMMY) for their song “Closer to Fine,” but they’ve also battled misogyny, homophobia, and a cultural climate that wasn’t always willing to accept them as out lesbians. Directed by Alexandria Bombach, It’s Only Life After All tells the story of this groundbreaking duo’s music and cultural impact.
Little Richard: I Am Everything
Most of know “Tutti Frutti” and other hits from rock n’ roll pioneer Little Richard. But Richard Penniman was an innovator in other ways, too – a Black queer artist who went on to influence the likes of Elvis Presley and the Beatles. Directed by Lisa Cortés, Little Richard: I Am Everything tells Richard’s story through interviews (Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Nile Rodgers, and more) and performances that bring us closer to his inner world.
Roberta Flack’s music is has a piercing, deeply personal quality thanks to her voice and instinct for songs that connect directly to our hearts and souls. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” her version of Leonard Cohen’s “That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” and the indelible “Killing Me Softly” are indelible musical moments. For Roberta, director Antonino D’Ambrosio earned exclusive access to Flack’s archives of film, performances, interviews, home movies, photos, and even unreleased music.
Squaring the Circle (the Story of Hipgnosis)
For Squaring the Circle, filmmaker Anton Corbijn tells the story of art students Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey “Po” Powell, who, under the name Hipgnosis, went on to create some of the most innovative album covers of all time for a huge number of bands including Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Wings, Black Sabbath, Yes, and Genesis. This film is full of great visuals and stories from artists such as Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Paul McCartney and Noel Gallagher.
Still Working 9 to 5
9 to 5 was not a music film per se, but that theme song (written by Dolly Parton, who also stars in the original film) sure made an impact, so we’re including in on this list. Still Working 9 to 5 reunites all of the stars from the original film and is interwoven with gender-rights milestones that have happened since 9 to 5 was first released.
In addition to the films, BIFF hosts a Singer-Songwriter Showcase March 2 and March 4 at the Velvet Elk Lounge in Boulder, in collaboration with Sonic Guild.
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