Following the German government’s announcement last week, cinemas have had to close their doors once more, despite having done a stand-up job at implementing safety and hygiene procedures. They have faced an unprecedented crisis this year, and there are fears that this new lockdown may be deathblow for many screens, which depended on the footfall of the city’s vibrant film festival scene to rescue the fourth quarter for Berlin’s kinos and cinephiles.
Many of the now-nixed festival events have decided to go online in order to avoid total cancellation, including this month’s Soundwatch Music Film Festival Berlin, which takes place digitally from November 5th to 16th. The festival is a platform for music docs, features and shorts that explore the relationship between music and cinema, and their fourth edition is a doozy. They’ve made their line-up available on the joint streaming channel of UNERHÖRT!, as pay-per-view streams, available for 48 hours, seven days or 30 days. Shame we’ll only get to see the films online and not get to discuss the films collectively, but quarantiners can’t be choosers.
The festival’s online opening film is one of our highlights of this year’s edition: Alison Ellwood’s documentary The Go-Go’s, which assembles all the band members to retell the story of the first all-female band to score a number 1 album in the US charts in 1981. It’s an introspective, candid and frequently humorous look at the outsiders and feminist pioneers, and while the film doesn’t stray too far from the average music doc template, tales of getting thrown out of Ozzy’s dressing room because you’re out-sniffing him, acrimonious splits, and the noxious consequences of fame make it a must-see for fans of both the ’70s LA pop-punk and ’80s new wave scenes. The documentary goes online on November 5th, with a director Q&A that same evening.
Another stellar entry is Rubika Shah’s award-winning documentary White Riot, which sticks two fingers up to fascism by combining fresh interviews with raw archive footage to chronicle the inception of Rock Against Racism (RAR) in 1976. The film, which screened in this year’s Berlinale Panorama section, comprehensively explores a moment when music changed the world. It traces the intersection between punk, reggae and social activism in the UK, featuring The Clash – whose famous song give the film its title – Sham 69, and many other rock legends.
Also of note are Mimaroğlu: The Robinson Of Manhattan Island, an eye-opening doc which delves into the careers and lives of avant-garde electronic music composer Ilhan Mimaroğlu and his wife Güngör, who migrated to the US from Turkey in the late 1950s, as well as Una Banda De Chicas (A Girl’s Band), an Argentinian doc by bassist-turned-filmmaker Marilina Giménez. This 2018 film follows female bands from Buenos Aires’ queer scene and offers an impressive insight into artists questioning a male-dominated environment, queer politics, and the struggle of women fighting for their rights. Giménez films underground artists who share their experiences about inequality, sexual harassment and the violence they face both on and off stage.
Lastly, keep an eye out for two excellent French films screening this year: Dominique Caubet’s Dima Punk, which follows a Casablanca-based punk who resists social pressure to conform, and Juruna Mallon’s Les Iles Résonnantes, a documentary about French musical pioneer Éliane Radigue, whose hypnotic compositions defined the drone genre.
Make sure to check out the festival’s full timetable and head to the shared VOD platform to support the festival and get an eye / ear full.
Soundwatch / November 05–16. See the full programme here.