News / Arts & Entertainment

Music Takes on Different Guises at Sundance

A scene from "Whiplash" (Courtesy Sundance/Daniel McFadden)
A scene from "Whiplash" (Courtesy Sundance/Daniel McFadden)
Reuters
Since the early days of film, music has gone hand in hand with movies, but a new crop of filmmakers is using music to explore existential themes of humanity that are being showcased at the annual Sundance Film Festival.
 
“Whiplash,” a contender in the U.S. dramatic competition, that kicked off Sundance last week and is the first of numerous films that use music as a tool to explore human identity at the festival, held in the Utah ski resort of Park City.
 
The film, directed by Damien Chazelle, stars rising star Miles Teller as a drummer who enters music school and comes face to face with a teacher who challenges him to pursue perfection, pushing him to the limit.
 
“It is such a singular film,” said Trevor Groth, Sundance's director of programming. “It really is one of the potential breakouts of the festival because it's so unique.”
 
“Whiplash” will compete against “Low Down,” a coming-of-age tale following a young girl growing up with a troubled musician father, and “Song One,” in which a young woman seeks out a musician to help her younger brother come out of a coma.
 
“I was really fascinated by the idea of music's connective power, and how it can connect people in unpredictable ways without them even knowing it,” Kate Barker-Frayland, the director of “Song One,” said.
 
Anne Hathaway and Johnny Flynn in a scene from "Song One" (Courtesy Sundance/John Guleserian)Anne Hathaway and Johnny Flynn in a scene from "Song One" (Courtesy Sundance/John Guleserian)
x
Anne Hathaway and Johnny Flynn in a scene from "Song One" (Courtesy Sundance/John Guleserian)
Anne Hathaway and Johnny Flynn in a scene from "Song One" (Courtesy Sundance/John Guleserian)
The romantic drama, starring Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway and Johnny Flynn, brings together two people both at low points in their lives. Barker-Frayland said she wanted to cast their story against the backdrop of Brooklyn's vibrant music scene.
 
“I wanted to shoot all of the performances live and record the music live to really capture what it's like to go watch a show at all these different places. Music is such an emotional thing and any song has some emotional content,” she said.
 
Music in Different Guises

Now in its 30th year, Sundance is the top independent film gathering in the United States and has helped launch the careers of many up-and-coming filmmakers, including Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh and David O. Russell.
 
The festival, backed by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute, is held in the snow-covered streets of Park City from Jan. 16-26.
 
Sundance has also ushered some strong music films into the awards race in recent years, with 2012's “Searching for Sugar Man” winning the best documentary feature Oscar the following year, and 2013's “20 Feet from Stardom,” which has been nominated for an Oscar in the Documentary Feature category.

This year, music spans all categories at Sundance, including competition, premieres and spotlight films, and takes many different guises, such as a musical, a coping mechanism and a tool for healing.
 
In “God Help the Girl,” a contender in the world cinema dramatic category, Scottish musician Stuart Murdoch, from indie-pop band Belle & Sebastian, explores a coming-of-age tale with a musical. In the spotlight category, “Only Lovers Left Alive,” starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, follows a dejected musician who finds solace in his lover as his world collapses.
 
“I'm curious as to how music is of such interest to our filmmakers,” said John Cooper, director of the film festival. “It could be tied to their passions being very similar, but each film is so unique in the approach that they've taken, it's almost as if there's no similarities except for the music.”
 
A scene from "Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory." (Courtesy Sundance/Eyeball NYC)A scene from "Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory." (Courtesy Sundance/Eyeball NYC)
x
A scene from "Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory." (Courtesy Sundance/Eyeball NYC)
A scene from "Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory." (Courtesy Sundance/Eyeball NYC)
​“Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory,” a contender in the U.S. documentary competition, explores the healing power of music as one man crusades to have music in nursing homes to help those with Alzheimer's disease.
 
The festival's closing night film, “Rudderless,” directed by actor William H. Macy, sees a father cope with the grief of losing his son by forming a rock and roll band to perform his late son's original music.
 
“It's definitely going to be a celebration of music at the festival,” said Cooper.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Trumpeter, percussionist and bandleader Etienne Charles was born in Trinidad and blends island rhythms with modern jazz. He and his stellar band perform a rich gumbo of jazz, calypso, reggae, and rock-steady that Charles calls “Creole Soul” on "The Hamilton Live."