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Current Films and Videos, Volume 48, no. 3 (Fall 2004)
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Compiled by David Henderson (St. Lawrence University)

This special issue is the second of two focusing on feature films and feature-length documentaries that revolve around musical subjects or raise ethnomusicological questions. This issue focuses on the Americas; the previous issue was devoted to all other regions of the world.

Individuals who contributed to this list are acknowledged below and cited in parentheses following each entry. Quotations included in entries are from these individuals unless otherwise noted; my descriptions are culled from publicity statements, film catalogs, film encyclopedia entries, and web resources. Issue numbers for entries previously included in this film- and videography are noted in brackets. "NLA" stands for "No Longer Available."

Acknowledgements: Jorge Arévalo, Tildy Bayar, Chris Becom, Michael Birenbaum Quintero, Walter Clark, Jennifer Cutting, Mark DeWitt, Rolf Groesbeck, David Harnish, Juniper Hill, David Hughes, Jay Keister, Pete Kvetko, Javier León, Fred Lieberman, Lucy Long, Marie MacDonald, Amelia Maciszewski, Richard Miller, Michael Morse, Gee Rabe, Anne Rasmussen, Jonathan Ritter, David Samuels, T. M. Scruggs, Karl Signell, Norman Stanfield, and Liz Wollman. [ Arevalo Leon ]

Editor's note: in order to aid searching, names and terms that have been coded to display diacriticals have been appended to the entry in brackets without diacriticals.

Americas | Distributor Information


The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack. 2000. Directed by Aiyana Elliott (USA). Distributed by Lot 47 Films. VHS and DVD, 112 mins. Feature-length documentary directed by the daughter of Ramblin' Jack Elliott. "In telling my dad's story," Elliott says, "a hundred other stories began to unfold, about Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan and the whole evolution of folk music in America...." With appearances by Arlo Guthrie, Kris Kristofferson, Alan Lomax, Pete Seeger, and others (Rasmussen) [45/1].

Bamboozled. 2000. Directed by Spike Lee (USA). Distributed by New Line Cinema. DVD, 135 mins. Frustrated television executive Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans) attempts to sabotage his own career by proposing to revive the minstrel show, with black actors in blackface. (Samuels).

Belizaire The Cajun. 1986. Directed by Glen Pitre (USA). Distributed by Madacy Entertainment. DVD, 103 mins. One of the first feature films focusing on Cajun culture, with Armand Assante starring as a Cajun healer in pre-Civil War Louisiana (DeWitt).

Berkeley in the Sixties. 1990. Directed by Mark Kitchell (USA). Distributed by First Run Features. VHS and DVD, 117 mins. Documentary about student activism which also "brings in a lot of music (as well as a lot of interviews with Country Joe McDonald)." The soundtrack also includes, as might be expected, music by Joan Baez, the Band, Jimi Hendrix, and the Grateful Dead (Wollman).

The Big Easy. 1987. Directed by Jim McBride (USA). Distributed by Trimark Home Video. Available from Facets Multi-Media. DVD, 108 mins. Dennis Quaid stars as Detective Remy McSwain in this New Orleans crime flick. With Solomon Burke as Daddy Mention and music by both the Neville Brothers and Dennis Quaid (DeWitt).

Bird. 1988. Directed by Clint Eastwood (USA). Distributed by Warner Home Video. VHS and DVD, 161 mins. Biography of Charlie Parker, starring Forest Whitaker. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times notes that it "wisely does not attempt to "explain' Parker's music by connecting experiences with musical discoveries. This is a film of music, not about it..." (Morse).

Bound for Glory. 1976. Directed by Hal Ashby (USA). Distributed by MGM Home Entertainment. DVD, 147 mins. Biography of Woody Guthrie, nominated for five Academy Awards. Stars David Carradine as Guthrie, with music by Leonard Rosenman (Arévalo). [ Arevalo ]

Buena Vista Social Club. 1999. Directed by Wim Wenders (Germany/USA/UK/France/Cuba). Distributed by Artisan Pictures, Inc. Available from Facets Multi-Media. DVD, 101 mins. Documentary of 1996 recording sessions and concerts of Cuban musicians organized by Ry Cooder. Shows songs being recorded in the studio, concert footage from Amsterdam and New York City, and some of the musicians talking about their lives in Cuba and how they got started in music. In Spanish and English with English subtitles (Bayar) [47/3].

Calle 54. 2000. Directed by Fernando Trueba (Spain/France/Italy). Distributed by Miramax Home Entertainment. VHS and DVD, 105 mins. Depicts Latin jazz musicians in rehearsal and performance. Includes footage of Bebo Valdés, Israel "Cachao" Lopez, and Tito Puente's last filmed performance (Birenbaum Quintero) [45/1]. [ Valdes ]

CB4. 1993. Directed by Tamra Davis (USA). Distributed by Universal Studios. VHS and DVD, 89 mins. Described by Hal Hinson of the Washington Post as "part rap 'Spinal Tap,' part 'Loaded Weapon I,' part Mad magazine." Written by Nelson George and Chris Rock, with Isaac Hayes and LaWanda Page playing small roles and Ice-T, Ice Cube, Flavor Flav, and others making appearances (Samuels).

The Chosen. 1981. Directed by Jeremy Paul Kagan (USA). Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. DVD, 108 mins. A story of two Jewish teenagers struggling with cultural differences in 1940s New York, based on the 1967 novel by Chaim Potok (who also appears as the "Talmud Teacher" in the film). With "some great klezmer music," including "klezmer accompaniment to a Hasidic wedding scene in which Rod Steiger's character [Reb Saunders] gets to his feet and dances ecstatically" (Signell).

Class Act. 1992. Directed by Randall Miller (USA). Distributed by Warner Home Video. VHS, 98 mins. Stars Kid 'n' Play, rappers who first appeared in House Party (1990), as two high school students whose academic records are switched. "First-time director Randall Miller guides them over every predictable comic misstep with a timeout for a hip-hop number," writes Peter Travers of Rolling Stone. "Kid 'n' Play have charm, but it's disturbing to see them settle for the slick. Their rap used to stand for something; now it's just easy listening" (Samuels).

Close Encounters of the Third Kind. 1977. Directed by Steven Spielberg (USA). Distributed by Columbia/Tristar Studios. DVD, 137 mins. Classic '70s science fiction film starring Richard Dreyfuss. "The aliens communicate with music. The five-note theme is first heard sung by a mass of worshippers in Dharamsala. The humans and aliens play that strange duet at the end. I don't know what it says about ethnomusicology (except maybe that India part), but it definitely has a thing about music as a universal language..." (Samuels).

Coal Miner's Daughter. 1980. Directed by Michael Apted (USA). Distributed by Universal Studios. VHS and DVD, 125 mins. Biography of Loretta Lynn, based on her written autobiography (1976). Starring Sissy Spacek, with Tommy Lee Jones as Mooney Lynn and Beverly d'Angelo as Patsy Cline (Lieberman).

Crooklyn. 1994. Directed by Spike Lee (USA). Distributed by Universal Studios. DVD, 115 mins. Partly autobiographic film with a screenplay written by Spike, Joie, and Cinqué Lee "in which music plays a central role in the story." The soundtrack includes songs by Berry Gordy, Curtis Mayfield, and Sly and the Family Stone (Keister). [ Cinque ]

Crossover Dreams. 1985. Directed by Leon Ichaso (USA). Distributed by Congress Entertainment. Available from Facets Multi-Media. VHS, 86 mins. A film about the rise and fall of a salsa singer that explores "salsa and Latino identity." Set in Spanish Harlem and starring Rubén Blades, this is Cuban-American director Ichaso's first feature film after El Súper (1979) (Scruggs). [ Ruben Super ]

Danzón. 1991. Directed by María Novaro (Mexico/Spain). Distributed by Columbia/Tristar Studios. Available from Amazon.com. VHS, 120 mins. Stars María Rojo as Julia Solórzano, a phone operator in Mexico City, and Daniel Rergis as Carmelo, strangers who dance together at the Salón Colonia every Wednesday. When Carmelo disappears, Julia travels to Veracruz to try to find him. With music by Felipe Pérez (Birenbaum Quintero). [ Danzon Maria Solorzano Salon Perez ]

Dead Man Walking. 1995. Directed by Tim Robbins (USA/UK). Distributed by MGM Home Entertainment. DVD, 122 mins. Susan Sarandon stars as a nun ministering to an unrepentant murderer (Sean Penn) on death row in Angola State Prison in this film based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean (1993). With music—most bafflingly, qawwali juxtaposed with murder scenes—by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Eddie Vedder, Ry Cooder, Lyle Lovett, Tom Waits, and Viswa Mohan Bhatt (Henderson).

Deep Blues. 1991. Directed by Robert Mugge (UK). Distributed by Sony Music. VHS and DVD, 91 mins. Film by acclaimed music documentary filmmaker, Robert Mugge (Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise [1980], Black Wax [1982], The Return of Rubén Blades [1985], The Kingdom of Zydeco [1994]). Robert Palmer and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics narrate "a musical trip through the Mississippi Delta, from Memphis to South Mississippi, featuring performances by blues and other—including fife and drum band—musicians" (Groesbeck). [ Ruben ]

Do the Right Thing. 1989. Directed by Spike Lee (USA). Distributed by Universal Studios. VHS and DVD, 120 mins. Exploration of race relations on the streets of Brooklyn. "Lee makes excellent use of music (Public Enemy's 'Fight The Power' reverberates throughout the film) to create tension and to comment on the action," writes Stephen Cox of the Edinburgh University Film Society, "and cinematographer Dickerson uses bright colours to give the sense of unbearable heat" (DeWitt).

Dolemite. 1975. Directed by D'Urville Martin (USA). Distributed by Xenon Pictures. DVD, 90 mins. Clunky cult classic starring the "godfather of rap," Rudy Ray Moore. Features one of the comic's most famous pieces, "The Signifying Monkey" (Henderson).

Drumline. 2002. Directed by Charles Stone III (USA). Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. VHS and DVD, 118 mins. Feature film about a mostly black college marching band at the fictional Atlanta A&T University, starring Nick Cannon as a Harlem street drummer recruited to lead the drumline to victory. There's an interesting connection "to Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace, where the Jar Jar Binks-type alien marching band at the end is basically a parody of southern black college bands, with cuicas and didjeridus added for exotic effect. There are also subtexts of musical innovation vs. 'the tradition' and the 'natural' musician (a cocky virtuoso who is not much of a team player) vs, the well-trained musician (a team leader whose sucess is partly measured by his ability to read music and understand 'the system')" (León). [ Leon ]

Fear of a Black Hat. 1994. Directed by Rusty Cundieff (USA/UK). Distributed by Columbia/Tristar Studios. DVD, 88 mins. First feature film by Cundieff, whose first film credit was as an infant on Days of Our Lives. A pseudo-documentary of the fictitious rap group, N.W.H. "As it recounts the history of N.W.H.," writes Michael Snyder of the San Francisco Chronicle, "the film also manages to lampoon rap music and its archetypes, as well as poking fun at the venal, self-serving music-business types looking to grab easy money from the scene" (Samuels).

Five Easy Pieces. 1970. Directed by Bob Rafelson (USA). Distributed by Columbia/Tristar Studios. DVD, 96 mins. Jack Nicholson stars as Robert Eroica Dupea, who drops his diligent study toward a career as a concert pianist, moves in with a waitress, and takes a job as an oil-field rigger. When he goes to visit his dying father, he must confront his pasts and presents. "Nicholson says everything there is to say about personal authenticity and intentionality in music performance" (Stanfield).

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. 1999. Directed by Jim Jarmusch (France/Germany/USA/Japan). Distributed by Kinowelt GmbH. DVD, 116 mins. "Ghost Dog," writes Xan Brooks of Sight and Sound, "comes across as an eccentric salad of styles (a hip-hop Mafia samurai thriller, no less), its core pure Jarmusch." With a soundtrack by Wu Tang Clan frontman RZA, this film offers plenty of material for talking "about appropriation: the black guy who's a samurai, the mobster who loves hip hop..." (Samuels).

Gimme Shelter. 1970. Directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin (USA). Distributed by The Criterion Collection. VHS and DVD, 91 mins. Classic documentary of the Rolling Stones' 1969 concert tour, mostly focusing on the Altamont Speedway performance and the killing of Meredith Hunter during it. With appearances by Jefferson Airplane, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Ike and Tina Turner. (Morse).

Grateful Dawg. 2000. Directed by Gillian Grisman (USA). Distributed by Sony Pictures. VHS and DVD, 81 mins. Documentary of the friendship and musical collaboration between David Grisman and Jerry Garcia, which began when they met at the Sunset Park, Pennsylvania, bluegrass festival in 1964. Directed by Grisman's daughter, this film is "like an 80-minute flip through the Grisman family photo album—" writes Geoffrey Gray of the Village Voice, "complete with live, unreleased soundtrack" (Rasmussen) [46/3].

The Harder They Come. 1973. Directed by Perry Henzell (Jamaica). Distributed by The Criterion Collection. VHS and DVD, 120 mins. Classic film featuring Jimmy Cliff as Ivan Martin, a rural Jamaican musician whose success in the Kingston music industry transforms him into the gun-toting hero of the underdog. With music by Toots & the Maytals, Desmond Decker, and, of course, Jimmy Cliff. In English with occasional English subtitles (Rabe, Scruggs).

High Fidelity. 2000. Directed by Stephen Frears (USA/UK). Distributed by Touchstone Pictures. VHS and DVD, 113 mins. John Cusack starts as Rob Gordon, the owner of a floundering record store in Chicago. Director Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette [1985], Sammy and Rosie Get Laid [1987], The Grifters [1990]) uses music to great effect in this film. "It has 57 songs credited," notes Andrew Urban in Urban Cinefile, "which should give you some idea of the importance of the soundtrack. As the title implies, High Fidelity is thematically driven by music; in other words, music matters to the characters, and music defines them in some way" (Lieberman).

House Party. 1990. Directed by Reginald Hudlin (USA). Distributed by New Line Cinema. VHS and DVD, 100 mins. The first film starring rap duo Kid 'n' Play (Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin), this is a remake of Hudlin's 1983 short film of the same name (a student work from his days at Harvard). George Clinton makes an appearance, and Ozus Munny is credited as the production manager (Samuels).

House Party 2. 1991. Directed by George Jackson and Doug McHenry (USA). Distributed by New Line Cinema. VHS and DVD, 94 mins. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times describes this as "a genial and good-humored sequel to the surprise 1990 hit, but not much more." While praising the directors for their work as producers on New Jack City (1991), he claims that they "have not really made anything here other than a 1950s Pat Boone movie with blacks instead of whites" (Samuels).

A Jumpin' Night in the Garden of Eden. 1988. Directed by Michal Goldman (USA). Distributed by First Run Features. VHS, 80 mins. Feature-length documentary on the New York klezmer scene, focusing primarily on Kapelye and the Klezmer Conservatory Band (Bayar) [33/1].

The Last Waltz. 1978. Directed by Martin Scorsese (USA). Distributed by MGM Home Entertainment. DVD, 117 mins. Footage of The Band's last concert, at San Francisco's Winterland in 1976, interspersed with studio clips and staged interviews. The film "includes some awesome footage of classic musicians," such as Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, Pinetop Perkins, and Neil Young, along with appearances by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Martin Scorsese (MacDonald).

Madonna: Truth or Dare. 1991. Directed by Alek Keshishian (USA). Distributed by Artisan Pictures, Inc. Available from Facets Mult-Media. VHS and DVD, 114 mins. Documentary following Madonna's 1990 Blond Ambition world tour, with small but memorable parts for Warren Beatty and Kevin Costner in particular. Also known as In Bed with Madonna (Morse).

The Mambo Kings. 1992. Directed by Arne Glimcher (USA/France). Distributed by Warner Home Video. VHS, 104 mins. "Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas play Cesar and Nestor Castillo, two talented Cuban musicians and brothers who leave their homeland in 1952 for a better life in America. There are scenes from the television show I Love Lucy with Desi Arnaz [played by Desi Arnaz, Jr.] and a cameo appearance by Tito Puente." With music by Arturo Sandoval, Celia Cruz, Beny More, and the Mambo All-Stars (Becom).

El Mariachi. 1992. Directed by Robert Rodriguez (USA/Mexico). Distributed by Columbia/Tristar Studios. DVD, 81 mins. A nameless guitar-playing drifter dressed in black wanders into a Mexican border town; the same day, a killer dressed identically arrives, and the guitarist finds himself pulled into local crime wars. Shot on a total budget of $7,000, this film made Rodriguez, then 23, a legend in independent low-budget filmmaking. The DVD includes Desperado, the 1995 remake/sequel to El Mariachi. In Spanish with English subtitles (Clark).

Masala. 1991. Directed by Srinivas Krishna (Canada). Distributed by Wellspring Media. VHS and DVD, 106 mins. Krishna (played by director Srinivas Krishna) is plagued by the memory of his parents' deaths as he struggles to negotiate his way around a pampering Indian extended family and a surly Canadian girlfriend in Toronto. With musical sequences parodying Bollywood films, a plot revolving around a rare Canadian stamp, and the god Krishna appearing at one point in a Maple Leafs uniform, this film is overripe with alternately complex and simplistic takes on diasporic identities (Henderson).

Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival. 1997. Directed by Murray Lerner (USA). Distributed by Sony Music. VHS and DVD, 127 mins. Documentary of the third and last Isle of Wight festival in 1970, directed by the executive producer of such classics as Rocketship X-M (1950), Train to Tombstone (1950), and Savage Drums (1951). With performances by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Jethro Tull, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, and the Doors, among others (Wollman).

A Mighty Wind. 2003. Directed by Christopher Guest (USA). Distributed by Warner Home Video. VHS and DVD, 91 mins. "[A] spoof on a reunion concert of late '50s/early '60s folk singers. It includes characters that are sort of summaries of various genres of folkies and includes the aesthetic, political, and personal issues that were central to the folk song revival of that time. It's also great fun to watch, and the new 'folk songs' that were written for it are actually quite pleasant" (Long).

Mo' Better Blues. 1990. Directed by Spike Lee (USA). Distributed by Universal Studios. DVD, 129 mins. "Doesn't music play a central role in the story in almost all of Spike Lee's films? [This film] about jazz musicians and sexual power...stars Denzel Washington as a trumpet player who sees his musical chops and sexual prowess as the same thing until he loses the former in a fight about the latter" (Groesbeck, Maciszewski).

Nashville. 1975. Directed by Robert Altman (USA). Distributed by Paramount Home Video. VHS and DVD, 159 mins. As in his other films, in Nashville Altman pulls together the individual stories of a range of ordinary figures and makes them fit both chaotically and seamlessly. Much of the dialogue is improvised; Henry Gibson, Ronee Blakely, and Karen Black, who play country & western stars, also sing their own songs (Lieberman).

Orfeu Negro/Black Orpheus. Directed by Marcel Camus (Brazil/France/Italy). Distributed by The Criterion Collection. VHS and DVD, 100 mins. A Brazilian interpretation of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, set during Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Starring Breno Mello as Orfeo and Marpessa Dawn as Eurydice, with music by Luiz Bonfá and Antonio Carlos Jobim, "the whole movie is full of fabulous Brazilian samba." In Portuguese with English subtitles (Hill). [ Bonfa ]

O Brother, Where Art Thou? 2000. Directed by Joel Cohen (UK/France/USA). Distributed by Touchstone Pictures. VHS and DVD, 106 mins. Three bumbling convicts escape from jail and journey through Depression-era Mississippi in search of hidden loot in this feature film loosely based on Homer's Odyssey. As in the Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski (1998), music archivist T-Bone Burnett works hard to get a precise fit between sound and sight, here mixing together vintage tracks like Harry McClintock's "Big Rock Candy Mountain" with recent recordings by Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, and others (Rasmussen).

Pocahontas. 1995. Directed by Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg (USA). Distributed by Walt Disney Home Video. VHS and DVD, 81 mins. "Disney's 33rd animated feature, and its first with characters based on real people," notes Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle. Inupiat Eskimo/French Canadian/Cree Irene Bedard, the voice of Pocahontas, was also the physical model for the cartoon figure. Rich fodder for discussing the politics of representation, although this film is a far cry from earlier Disney fare. With music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Harnish).

Powwow Highway. 1989. Directed by Jonathan Wacks (UK). Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment. DVD, 88 mins. A Native American road movie starring A Martinez, Gary Farmer, and "Protector" (a '64 Buick) in a journey from Lame Deer, Montana, to Santa Fe, New Mexico. "[C]ontains a powerful segment that takes place at a reservation powwow, a conversation between the film's protagonist and Graham Greene's character [a Vietnam veteran] about what value the event has in contemporary Indian lives" (Ritter).

Pure Country. 1992. Directed by Christopher Cain (USA). Distributed by Warner Home Video. VHS and DVD, 112 mins. Dusty Chandler, a superstar in the country music world, tires of his overblown performative style and decides to seek out his true country roots. "[S]tarring and with a soundtrack by George Strait" (Samuels).

Purple Rain. 1984. Directed by Albert Magnoli (USA). Distributed by Warner Home Video. VHS and DVD, 111 mins. Classic '80s musical drama featuring Prince as The Kid. "As a showcase for his songwriting and showmanship," writes Nathan Rabin of The Onion, "the film fully justifies its place in the pop-culture pantheon, but as a movie, it's a muddle of bad acting, hackneyed melodrama, clumsy exposition, arbitrary conflicts, and dime-store Freudianism." (Kvetko).

Rainbow Bridge. 1972. Directed by Chuck Wein (USA). Distributed by Rhino Home Video. DVD and VHS, 125 mins. Features highlights from Jimi Hendrix's last U.S. performance, a1970 concert on top of Haleakala Volcano in Hawai'i. The only other film directed by Wein was a 1965 film, My Hustler, done with Andy Warhol (Harnish).

The Right Stuff. 1983. Directed by Philip Kaufman (USA). Distributed by Warner Home Video. DVD, 193 mins. Epic about the Mercury astronauts; of no great musical interest except in its use of the didjeridu to index some kind of spirituality. Along with the usual musical fare for Hollywood space odysseys, the soundtrack also includes taiko drumming by Seiichi Tanaka; "Yablochka," by the Andreyev Balalaika Ensemble; and "La Bamba," by Chubby Checker (Samuels).

Rock 'n' Roll High School. 1979. Directed by Allan Arkush (USA). Distributed by New Concorde Home Video. VHS and DVD, 93 mins. A group of students take over their school with the help of the Ramones (Cheap Trick declined to participate in the film) (Kvetko).

The Rose. 1979. Directed by Mark Rydell (USA). Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. DVD, 125 mins. Bette Midler stars as Mary Rose Foster, a self-destructive rock star based loosely on Janis Joplin, and Alan Bates delivers a strong performance as Rudge Campbell, her manager (Lieberman).

The Saddest Music in the World. 2004. Directed by Guy Maddin (Canada). Distributed by MGM Home Entertainment. DVD, 99 mins. Transformation of Kazuo Ishiguro's decade-old screenplay into a Depression-era musical shot in Winnipeg. Stars Isabella Rossellini as the legless Lady Port-Huntly, the "Beer Queen of the Prairie." When she announces a contest to find the saddest music in the world, musicians from Scotland, Siam, Mexico, West Africa, and elsewhere descend on Winnipeg. With additional musical material by Jerome Kern (León). [ Leon ]

The Searchers. 1956. Directed by John Ford (USA). Distributed by Warner Home Video. VHS and DVD, 119 mins. John Wayne film that, like many other westerns (particularly those of Ford), is useful both for "depictions of Native Americans" and for its "use of film score to evoke Americana." Music by Max Steiner (DeWitt).

The Secret of the Incas. 1954. Directed by Jerry Hopper (USA). 100 mins. NLA. Starring Charlton Heston and Robert Young, with music by the prolific David Buttolph, the composer of music for such films as The Three Musketeers (1939), This Gun for Hire (1942), South Sea Woman (1953), Long John Silver (1954), and The Lone Ranger (1956). "Archaeologists, Inca sacred object hidden in cave, etc. etc....Indians carrying or playing harps, quenas, drums, and dancing...but the music [is] orchestral, heavy on the expected pseudo-Indian stuff. The singing is by the incredible Yma Sumac" in the role of Kori-Tica. Certainly this film, like King Kong (1933) and many others, is useful in exploring the history of Hollywood representations of "native" music (Hughes).

Selena. 1997. Directed by Gregory Nava (USA). Distributed by Warner Home Video. VHS and DVD, 127 mins. Biography of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, released shortly after she was killed by the president of her fan club in 1995. Starring Jennifer Lopez (Lieberman). [ Quintanilla-Perez ]

Shaft. 1971. Directed by Gordon Parks (USA). Distributed by Warner Home Video. VHS and DVD, 100 mins. One of the early films of the blaxploitation era in Hollywood cinema, starring Richard Roundtree as suave detective John Shaft. Isaac Hayes' score was nominated for an Academy Award; his theme song won the Oscar for best original song (Kvetko).

Smoke Signals. 1998. Directed by Chris Eyre (USA/Canada). Distributed by Miramax Home Entertainment. DVD, 88 mins. With the tagline, "a new film from the heart of Native America," this film was directed by Cheyenne-Arapaho Chris Eyre and written by Spokane-Coeur d'Alene Sherman Alexie (based on his 1993 collection of short stories, Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven); it also stars two figures familiar to Native American roles, Gary Farmer (who appeared in Powwow Highway [1989]) and Irene Bedard (the voice of Pocahontas [1995]). The film "has a couple of good scenes of the main characters singing round dance/49 songs, including the classic 'John Wayne's Teeth'" (Ritter).

A Soldier's Story. 1984. Directed by Norman Jewison (USA). Distributed by Columbia/Tristar Studios. DVD, 98 mins. Howard E. Rollins stars as an Army lawyer sent to Louisiana to investigate the murder of a black sergeant in this World War II-era film. With a score by Herbie Hancock and a notable gospel music scene (DeWitt).

Songcatcher. 2000. Directed by Maggie Greenwald (USA). Distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment. VHS and DVD, 109 mins. Melodramatic film set in 1907 and starring Janet McTeer as Dr. Lily Penleric, a musicologist who, after being denied an academic promotion, visits her sister in the Appalachian Mountains, where she discovers a new world of music-making. The character is based on Olive Dame Campbell. In the production notes, Greenwald remarks, "I was intrigued by these wonderful ballads that were being sung in the mountains for a century before the the world ever knew about them. I was further intrigued to find that the people who brought this music to the mainstream were women—the teachers and missionaries who were up in the mountains at that time, and who realized for the first time the power of this music and culture" (Rasmussen).

Still Crazy. Directed by Brian Gibson (UK). Distribued by Columbia/Tristar Studios. DVD, 95 mins. A "slightly darker (but still hilarious) version of the 'aging rockers attempt a reunion tour' theme....[Still Crazy] chronicles the reunion of fictional '70s rock band Strange Fruit, which had disbanded after the tragic death of one member and the unexplained disappearance of another. Twenty years later, they reunite for a Dutch club tour, which is their warm-up for a major festival appearance. Billy Connolly plays the wise-cracking roadie, and Bill Nighy plays the preening but insecure lead singer. Like Spinal Tap, this films portrays the vicissitudes of the music industry so accurately that for those of us who are insiders, it is both painfully close to the bone and at the same time very affirming. And it's wickedly funny to boot!" (Cutting).

Stop Making Sense. 1984. Directed by Jonathan Demme (USA). Distributed by Palm Pictures. VHS and DVD, 88 mins. Demme worked with cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth (Blade Runner [1982]), using a staging concept developed by David Byrne, to make this concert film of the Talking Heads. Shot at Hollywood's Pantages Theater in December, 1983, this is "probably the best rock concert film since Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz," writes Alan Karp in Box Office Magazine (Wollman).

Superfly. 1972. Directed by Gordon Parks Jr. (USA). Distributed by Warner Home Video. DVD, 93 mins. Stars Ron O'Neal as Youngblood Priest, a cocaine dealer who wants to quit, but only after making one last big deal. The score is by Curtis Mayfield, who also makes an onstage appearance in the film (Kvetko).

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. 1971. Directed by Melvin Van Peebles (USA). Distributed by Xenon Pictures. VHS and DVD, 97 mins. Described by Xenon Pictures as "a hurricane of a movie that redefined the art and economics of filmmaking...passionately honest, brutal in violence and sexuality, and aggressively revolutionary in its politics." Starring Melvin Van Peebles, edited by Melvin Van Peebles, with music by Melvin Van Peebles (Kvetko).

Sympathy for the Devil. 1968. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard (UK). Distributed by ABKCO Video. VHS and DVD, 99 mins. An "excellent example of the Maoist period of the French New Wave, intercutting studio footage of the Stones failing to record a coherent version of 'Sympathy for the Devil' with street shots of guerilla art actions and staged sequences of Black Revolution to provide a critique of cultural appropriation and the impotence of commercial art in an age that demands revolutionary change" (Miller).

Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser. 1989. Directed by Charlotte Zwerin (USA). Distributed by Warner Home Video. VHS and DVD, 90 mins. Biographical film by the late Zwerin (1931-2004), who also did documentaries on Willem de Kooning (1981), Toru Takemitsu (1994), and Ella Fitzgerald (1999), and was one of the co-directors of Gimme Shelter (1970) (Morse).

Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey. 1994. Directed by Steven M. Martin (USA/UK). Distributed by MGM Home Entertainment. DVD, 83 mins. "[A] documentary, and a great one," about the instrument and the man. The film "also includes clips from loads of films that use [the theremin]," along with extensive interviews with Leon Theremin, Clara Rockmore, Robert Moog, Nicolas Slonimsky, Todd Rundgren, and Brian Wilson (Samuels) [42/1].

This Is Spinal Tap. 1984. Directed by Rob Reiner (USA). Distributed by MGM Home Entertainment. DVD, 82 mins. Classic mockumentary of a previously fictional heavy metal band. The volume on this one goes up to eleven (Lieberman).

Wattstax. 1973. Directed by Mel Stuart (USA). Distributed by Warner Home Video. DVD, 98 mins. Feature-length documentary of "the black Woodstock" held in 1972 in Los Angeles, with performances by Rufus and Carla Thomas, the Bar-Kays, the Staple Singers, Albert King, and Isaac Hayes, and appearances by Jesse Jackson and Richard Pryor (Kvetko).

Woodstock. 1970. Directed by Michael Wadleigh (USA). Distributed by Warner Home Video. VHS and DVD, 184 mins. Documentary of the 1969 music festival (and one of the few films for which Martin Scorsese served as assistant director). "[T]he way it's shot, Woodstock represents the counterculture at its most rosy and idealized" (Harnish, Wollman).

Distributor Information

1700 Broadway
New York, NY 10019

P.O. Box 81226
Seattle, WA 98108

Anchor Bay Entertainment
1699 Stutz Drive
Troy, MI 48084

Artisan Pictures, Inc.
2700 Colorado Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90404

Columbia/Tristar Studios
10202 West Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232

The Criterion Collection

Facets Multi-Media
1517 West Fullerton Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614
fax: 773.929.5437

First Run Features
153 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10014
fax: 212.989.7649

Kinowelt GmbH
Karl-Tauchnitz-Straße 10
D-04107 Leipzig
www.kinowelt.de [ Karl-Tauchnitz-Strasse ]

Lions Gate Entertainment
2700 Colorado Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90404
fax: 310.255.3870

Lot 47 Films
13 Laight Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10013
fax: 212.965.5655

Madacy Entertainment
3333 Graham Boulevard, Suite 102
Montreal, Quebec H3R 3L5
fax: 514.341.6565

MGM Home Entertainment
2500 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90404-3061

Miramax Home Entertainment
7966 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048

New Concorde Home Video
11600 San Vicente Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90049
fax: 310.207.6916

New Line Cinema

Palm Pictures
601 West 26th Street, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10001
fax: 212.360.3609

Paramount Home Video
5555 Melrose Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90038

Rhino Home Video

Sony Music

Sony Pictures

Touchstone Pictures

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
2121 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 2500
Los Angeles, CA 90067
fax: 866.652.9118

Universal Studios
10 Universal City Plaza, Suite 3200
Universal City, CA 91608

Walt Disney Home Video

Warner Home Video
4000 Warner Boulevard, Building 505
Burbank, CA 91505

Wellspring Media
419 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016

Xenon Pictures
1440 9th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
fax: 310.395.4058

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