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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Paquito D'Rivera, who has won 12 Grammys, is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer. D'Rivera's latest project, “Jazz Meets the Classics,” was released this month. He joins us on the latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."