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The 22nd edition of Filmfest DC begins April 24th (today!) and runs through May 4th (the day after our relaunch party!). This year the International film festival has an awesome Global Rhythms film series that will bring some amazing music documentaries to theaters all around town. Here are some highlights:

Patti Smith: Dream of Life

USA, 2008, 109 minutes, Color and Black & White

In Person: Patti Smith and Director Steven Sebring

Winner of the cinematography prize at Sundance for director Steven Sebring, Patti Smith: Dream of Life is a hypnotic plunge, a breathing collage of this legendary musician/poet/painter/activist’s philosophy and artistry that feels as if it sprang directly from her soul. A punk pioneer and spiritual child of Rimbaud, Blake, and Burroughs, Patti Smith’s fierce poetry and rock music shook up New York’s 1970s underground scene, and her work continues to be stirred organically by her rigorous mind, beloved artistic touchstones, and world events. Shot over 11 years, the film travels Smith’s mystical interior terrain—the ideas, losses, and memories she wrestles with—and traces her outward adventures. Layered with mesmerizing recitations, music, and narration, the fluid journey incorporates performances, graveyard pilgrimages and political rallies, archival nuggets, and vérité moments with her working-class parents, children, and friends.-2008 Sundance Film Festival

April 25th. 9:30 pm at the Lincoln Theatre.

Watch the trailer

Heavy Metal in Baghdad

Canada, USA, 2007, 92 minutes, Color

In Person: Producer Monica Hampton (April 25 screening only)

This documentary about one band’s attempts to survive, much less gig, in war-torn Iraq answers the question “what’s the heavy-metal music scene like in Baghdad?” Acrassicauda is a quartet named for the Latin word meaning “black scorpion.” Although they managed but three shows prior to the 2003 invasion, they were smart enough to pen “The Youth of Iraq,” an anthemic tribute to Saddam Hussein that kept the dictator’s pressure largely off them and their music. The band’s most affable and eloquent spokesman is bassist Firas al Lateef, whose firm rejection of sectarian violence—he’s a Sunni, his wife’s Shiite—is as political as the film gets. Otherwise, co-director and onscreen narrator Suroosh Alvi is more interested in the band’s day-to-day survival as they regroup in Damascus, Syria, to cut their first sides. “What’s the vibe now?” Alvi asks at one point, suggesting that this isn’t your father’s wartime documentary. -Eddie Cockrell


Made in Jamaica

France, USA, 2006, 120 minutes, Color

In Person: Producer Charlotte Lawrence

Jamaica is a nation of only three million people, yet its music can be heard in every corner of the world. Creatively, it is a super-power, and Made in Jamaica shows why. The film brings together a dream list of musicians, including Gregory Isaacs, who offers a majestic elegy to slain musician Bogle, Bounty Killer, who speculates on what drives young men from poor neighborhoods to gun violence, and Lady Saw, who explains how liberating it is to outperform men when it comes to raw, sexual lyrics. Sound systems pound out deep-bass “riddims” on street corners, in yards, and on Jamaica’s famous beaches, as Bunny Wailer, Beres Hammond, Third World, Toots, and Capleton chant lyrics of resistance and redemption. The crowd is always a part of the show, and this film delivers all the shocking outfits and eye-popping circumlocutions of the human body intrinsic to the dance hall. -Cameron Bailey, 2006 Toronto International Film Festival

Lady Saw! Capleton! Bounty Killer! I spent an entire fiscal quarter only listening to dance hall. My work out mix is hilarious.

The Night James Brown Saved Boston

USA, 2008, 66 minutes, Color and Black & White

In Person: Director David Leaf and Producer Eric Kulberg

Here’s the newest documentary from David Leaf, whose previous music-related films include The U.S. vs. John Lennon and Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of SMILE. The day after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, America’s inner cities were on fire and the city of Boston looked to James Brown to help stop it from exploding and imploding. The Night James Brown Saved Boston focuses on James Brown’s extraordinary, history-making concert at the Boston Garden on April 5, 1968, putting the events of that day into the context of the times, telling the dramatic story of what happened that night, and spotlighting this crucible moment in the life and career of James Brown. Up to that moment, James Brown had been a great artist, a successful businessman, a civil rights activist, and an American patriot. On April 5, 1968, he became a hero. -2008 South by Southwest Film Festival

View all the film selections, festival schedule, and buy tickets here