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 Ukraine: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."