A Band Called Death (2013)
Directors: Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett
When people think about punk rock, a few usual suspects come to mind: the Ramones, Bad Brains, and the Sex Pistols, for example. But, as Howlett's film points out, the Detroit-based group simply known as Death (siblings Dannis, David, and Bobby Hackney) were just as, if not even more so, trailblazing as those aforementioned iconic acts. The only problem was, Death's Motown roots left record label heads and fans confused when it came time to listen to their 1974 demo: Why weren't these three black brothers from the D crooning harmonies? Why all of the aggressive, nihilistic rock?
Similar to last year's Oscar-nominated Searching for Sugar Man, A Band Called Death is all about redemption. Thirty years after the siblings recorded their failed demo, they found a fan base; and now, courtesy of filmmakers Jeff Howlett and Mark Christopher Covino, they've been given a superb platform to inspire music fans and family-minded viewers alike.
A Band Called Death thankfully doesn't posit the group, like less music documentaries would, as a recording industry treasure that people have unfairly slept on, even with on-camera commentary from Death fans like Kid Rock, Questlove, and Elijah Wood-Howlett and Covino focus on the Hackney family's deep, personal bonds. Through that, the film resonates as poignant character study, not a glorified Behind the Music episode. —Matt Barone