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Music

Luther: Never Too Much

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. Luther Vandross always thought he would be a star. In Luther: Never Too Much, director Dawn Porter (John Lewis: Good Trouble) traces that journey to stardom, beginning with his formative years at the epicenter of black culture, Harlem’s very own Apollo Theater, through to his big break with David Bowie, where he would go on to sing background vocals and arrange Bowie’s iconic Young Americans album. Porter explores his process of creation, an exacting style that culminated in the most exquisite compositions, and delves into the man behind the music — insights from musicians and friends alongside archival interviews with Luther himself that reveal his humor, frustrations, loneliness, personal issues, and unwavering dedication to his craft as expressed through his exquisite music, experienced here in a new light. Both new converts and devout admirers from back in the day will enjoy this sensitive and joyous exploration of the life and career of a performer who left us way too soon.

Soundtrack to a Coup d'Etat

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Jazz and global history have never intertwined in such a compelling and convincing manner as in Johan Grimomprez’s Soundtrack to a Coup d’Etat, an engrossing documentary that examines how the great American art form and geopolitics collide in a nefarious chapter of Cold War history: the murder of Patrice Lumumba. The year is 1960, the Voice of America Jazz Hour broadcasts the likes of Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie behind the Iron Curtain, while a wave of decolonization movements tears through the African continent and the struggle for civil rights marches on stateside. Beat by beat, director Johan Grimonprez traces Lumumba’s rise of the 36-year-old independence leader to become Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister—and how corporate and colonial interests, along with machinations at the United Nations, conspired in his assassination. Deeply researched, the film interweaves archival records, home movies, newly unearthed speeches by Lumumba, and published memoirs by Congolese activists and writers with the story of the Black jazz legends (Armstrong, Gillespie, Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln among others) who defined the era in more ways than one. Pulsating with the energy of the period, Soundtrack to a Coup d’Etat plays like both a dense historical text and a lively jazz concert while proving itself to be an invigorating piece of documentary filmmaking.

Chuck Owen and the Jazz Surge Present: The Making of Within Us -The 25th Anniversary Album

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

One of Central Florida’s most celebrated jazz ensembles embarks on the exciting journey of celebrating and recording their 25th Anniversary Album “Within Us”. While in the midst of the COVID uncertainty, we gain a fascinating and informative inside look at the creative process of how a jazz big band recording evolves. From finding inspiration, to reuniting with old friends, to performing extremely difficult music with technical issues and having the studio being shut down in the middle of recording, this inside look at the process of recording and releasing a big band jazz album moves through a range of emotions and gives insight into the creativity, patience and resilience of the band and their composer, Chuck Owens, who shows what “Within Us” means.


Left Alone Rhapsody – The Musical Memoir of Pianist John Bayless

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. At 25, Leonard Bernstein protégé John Bayless debuted at Carnegie Hall, performing “Rhapsody in Blue” with full orchestra, initiating a 30-year-long concert and recording career as a solo pianist, composer, and improvisor. At 54, a left-brain stroke immobilized his right side.The music stopped. John’s magical ‘first act’ disappeared. Left Alone Rhapsody – The Musical Memoir of Pianist John Bayless chronicles John’s rise from four-year-old Texas musical prodigy to international star; his fall post-stroke and struggle to transcend paralysis; and his determination to reinvent himself as a one-handed musician and storyteller. The question is: With just his left hand alone, how far will he go? This is John’s musical story.


In Attendance: John Bayless, Stewart M. Schulman, Director

Swamp Dogg Gets His Pool Painted

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. Jerry Williams had his first national chart success in 1966, when “Baby You’re My Everything”, which he co-wrote and produced, rose to #32 on the R&B chart. He subsequently produced the likes of Patti LaBelle and wrote and co-wrote hit songs, most notably the country smash “She’s All I Got.” In 1970 he created Swamp Dogg “to have an alter-ego and someone to occupy the body while the search party was out looking for Jerry Williams, who was mentally missing in action due to certain pressures, maltreatments and failure to get paid royalties on over fifty single records.” In this new persona he has released a number of individual, uncompromising, critically-acclaimed if not commercially successful soul and R&B albums beginning with 1970’s classic Total Destruction To Your Mind. Replete with archival footage and his deep catalog of music, Swamp Dogg Gets His Pool Painted takes us to his Southern California abode, where he looks back at his unique career, holds court when friends drop by, and continues to make music. Along with housemates Moogstar and Guitar Shorty, he has transformed the home into an artistic playground. Together, they navigate the tumultuous music industry, forging a unique and inspiring bond across time and space.

This is a Film About The Black Keys

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

East Coast Premiere. This Is a Film About The Black Keys traces Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney’s journey from a home basement jamming session in Akron, Ohio to rock ’n’ roll super-stardom. They barely knew each other when they made their first recordings, yet quickly realized they shared a powerful musical connection and a drive to succeed. Touring relentlessly for ten years, the duo navigated the highs and lows of life on the road, finally reaching escape velocity with their hit records “Brothers” and “El Camino.” As so many forces have threatened to pull them apart, the band has managed to stick together. Twenty-four years on, they’re tighter than ever, still making great music and still asking what’s next.

Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. This infectious music and dance-filled documentary tells the story of young Jamaican immigrants across Brooklyn coming of age during the 80s and 90s and were drawn to dancehall music to keep connected to life back home. Their preservation of key elements of culture through deejays, sound systems, and dancing in New York’s seedy underground provides the unique atmosphere for an influential movement that was bubbling up in the shadow of hip hop. Shot in New York City and Kingston, Jamaica under the guidance of executive producer Shaggy, and complemented by the safeguarded VHS tapes from notorious videomen of the times, Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall immerses us into the remarkable rise of the most under-acknowledged music genre – and the accompanying social scene – and its ever-present influence on a younger generation of Caribbean-Americans.


In Attendance: Ramfis Myrthil, Co-Producer

Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. This intimate documentary reveals the story of a fierce rock ‘n’ roller, actress, muse to Brian Jones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and mother who rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s. Using the words of her unpublished memoir, Anita brings us deep into her world, with the help of a supporting cast that includes her family – Marlon, Angela, their father Richards, Marianne Faithfull and others drawn to her unique appeal. Never-seen-before home movies and family photographs show life with the Rolling Stones: this is a bittersweet tale of adventure and misadventure. From the set of Barbarella to the Swiss Alps to New York’s Lower East Side, Anita Pallenberg was a woman ahead of her time.


In Attendance: Co-Director Svetlana Zill

A sneak preview of FIORETTA

Sarasota Film Festival 2023

Sneak Preview of Fioretta – With a Conversation with Randy Schoenberg. Randy Schoenberg (grandson of the famous composer) and his 18-year-old son Joey journey through Europe and the centuries to reclaim 500 years of family history. Along the way, they encounter kings, mystics, and a false messiah, as well as the long-forgotten ordinary people who witnessed Europe’s distant and recent past: the expulsions, the Holocaust, Communism, and, most recently, the refugee crisis precipitated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Randy is renowned for recovering Nazi-looted art, but his greatest achievement might just be reuniting the fractured and scattered shards of his own family.


An Evening with Randy Schoenberg featuring a sneak preview screening of Matthew Mishory’s FIORETTA. In Attendance: Matthew Mishory, Director; Randy Schoenberg, Subject.

Lost Angel: The Genius of Judee Sill

Sarasota Film Festival 2023

Lost Angel is an intimate portrait of a musical artist, largely, told by Judee herself. Through recorded interviews, concert intros and entries in her personal journal the film provides deep access to the source of her unique musical creativity and to the darker recesses of her struggles with addiction. Additional interviews with friends and contemporaries, including Graham Nash, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and David Geffen give a first-hand experience of Judee’s personality, talents and struggles. Ultimately, it is a story of redemption. While not finding a large audience in her lifetime, Judee’s music has been rediscovered inspiring some of top musicians today. Here the film features Adrienne Lenker (Big Thief), Natalie Mering (Weyes Blood) and Shawn Colvin to help bring to life Judee’s core belief that you could “save someone through music.”


In Attendance: Andrew Brown, Co-Director

Karen Carpenter: Starving for Perfection

Sarasota Film Festival 2023

She was the first in a long line of celebrities to suffer from an eating disorder during an era when the vastly misunderstood phenomenon brought shame and public humiliation. For the first time, we hear Karen Carpenter’s personal struggle in her own voice through never-before released recordings and through the legendary voices of those who knew her and were inspired by her music. As the #1 American musical act of the 1970s, the Carpenters were on top of the world, producing a string of pop masterpieces, including “Close to You,” “We’ve Only Just Begun,” and “Rainy Days and Mondays.” But behind closed doors, Karen’s quest for perfection resulted in low self esteem, a disheartening love life, and a public battle with anorexia nervosa, which ended with her untimely death at the age of only 32. Forty years after her death comes KAREN CARPENTER: STARVING FOR PERFECTION, a captivating, revealing, and unvarnished documentary providing astounding new insight into the singer’s tragically short life and enduring musical legacy.

Billie

2020 Sarasota Film Festival

What if the most important story in your life was not your own?

Billie Holiday, one of the greatest voices of all time, was always controversial – a proud black woman who preferred white audiences, an exploited artist and a violent drug addict, a loyal friend and a vindictive lover, a blues singer who didn’t sing the blues, and when she sang the seminal protest song Strange Fruit, an enemy of the state. Her enigmatic accounts of her own life were a mix of half truths and free-form improvisations.

Then, in 1971, journalist Linda Lipnack Kuehl set out to write the definitive biography of Billie. Over 8 years, she tracked down and tape-recorded over 200 hours of interviews with the extraordinary characters that populated the iconic singer’s short, tumultuous life. Raw and brutally honest, incredible testimonies from Charles Mingus, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, Count Basie, her step-parents, school friends, jail-mates, lawyers, pushers, pimps and even the FBI agents who arrested here – but Linda’s book was never finished and the tapes never heard. Until now.

Anchored around these never-before-heard interviews, BILLIE will play out like a film noir. Melding archive, drama, animation and still images, BILLIE will capture the complexity of a legend through the eyes of the woman whose obsession would lead to her own mysterious, untimely death.

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