21. A Band Called Death
Director: Mark Christopher Covino, Jeff Howlett
Release Date: May 24, VOD; June 28, theatrical
Every year at the SXSW Film Festival, the 24 Beats Per Second section features strong lineups made up of music-based documentaries, real-life movies about forgotten rockers, cherished icons, and sonic trends. The film that generated the heaviest buzz during the SXSW's 2013 edition was director Jeff Howlett's A Band Called Death, and not just because it had the coolest title of them all.
When people think about punk, 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 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, providing a compelling narrative backbone for what should be the summer's most inspiring documentary.