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Special Collections

Music Documentaries

"Third World Newsreel is emerging as a leading voice on global music." --Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database


 


TWN's Music Documentaries Collection features award-winning independent films from 17 countries including Canada, Uganda, Senegal, Ghana, South Africa, Morocco, Turkey, China, Mexico, Uruguay, Colombia, Cuba, Brazil, Bolivia, Haiti, Trinidad & Tobago, and the United States.

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James Spooner
2003, 66 min., Color, US
AFRO-PUNK explores race identity within the punk scene. This film tackles hard questions, such as issues of loneliness, exile, inter-racial dating and black power. We follow the lives of four people who have dedicated themselves to the punk rock lifestyle. They find themselves in conflicting situations, living the dual life of a person of color in a mostly white community. Afro-Punk features performances by Bad Brains, Tamar Kali, Cipher, and Ten Grand. It also contains exclusive interviews by members of Fishbone, 247- spyz, Dead Kennedys, Candiria, Orange 9mm and TV on the Radio to name a few.
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Randy Kelly
Producer: Jacques Ménard & Micheline Shoebridge
2007, 44 min., Color, Canada
In Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, an isolated community of 1500 mainly Inuit residents, Hip-Hop has been popular for many years. But it’s the glamourized gangsta lifestyle on display in music videos that many of the local kids choose to emulate.
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Maurice Lynch
2006, 90 min., Color, US
The Hip-Hop Christian movement has been uplifting youth by delivering positive religious messages that are not about drugs, sex, or hate but of hope and peace.
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Judy Singh
2005, 40 min., Color, Cuba
BLOOD features popular Canadian-Jamaican dub poet d’bi.young, with performances by the Cuban female Hip-Hop Group Las Krudas. The film is part extraordinary music video (shot on locations around Havana, Cuba) and part entertaining after-dinner conversation between d’bi and her friends. Part of the CaribbeanTales Collection.
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Felix Rodriguez
2005, 50 min., Color, US
Art, labor and family blend in this intimate documentary about performance artist Caridad De La Luz, better know as 'La Bruja'. Born and raised in the Bronx, this daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants takes the number 6 train to downtown Manhattan where she performs at popular New York City venues. She reads her poetry in Joe's Pub, stages her one-woman show in the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and performs at Def Poetry Jam. But opportunities are scarce and she struggles to make ends meet in an industry where 'to keep it real' often means to work for free.
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Pascale Obolo
2005, 85 min., Color, Trinidad
Featuring the last of the great calypsonians, bringing them all together to sing such classics as “Rum & Coca Cola,” “Jean and Dinah,” and “Shame and Scandal in the Family,” to name a few, the film provides an opportunity to recapture the sound of classic calypso in all of its splendor. Sparrow, Calypso Rose, Terror, Bomber, Superior and Relator are gathered around Syl Dopson’s orchestra on the scene at Dirty Jim’s Club, specially recreated for the film. Lively and touching, filled in the sidelines of Trinidad Carnival, this musical documentary provides a sensitive and originalrendering of calypso, its culture and the legendary singers of the Dirty Jim’s.
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Geoffrey Dunn and Michael Horne
2004, 85 min., Color, Trinidad & Tobago
An intimate portrait of some of the true calypsonians in Trinidad & Tobago, in performance and in conversation. Shot over three years in Port of Spain, Trinidad, the documentary includes such legendary calypsonians as Lord Pretender, Lord Kitchener, the Mighty Bomber, Relator, Lord Superior, Brigo, Mystic Prowler, Calypso Rose, the Mighty Sparrow, Terror, Valentino, Lord Blakie, David Rudder, Regeneration Now, the Mighty Duke, Conqueror and many others.
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Jim Virga & Tula Goenka
2006, 22 min., Color, Bolivia
This short documentary is about a little instrument, a large silver mine and the highest city in the world. Cerro Rico in Potosi, Bolivia, was discovered by Spanish conquistadors in 1545, who enslaved the local indigenous people. It is said that 8 million people, including African slaves, died in the mines of this mountain while providing Spain with immense wealth. The Spanish culture spread into Potosi, and the local people became aware of something they had never seen or heard before: a stringed instrument. Forbidden from ever playing the Spanish guitar, the miners copied it and created the charango.
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Tamara Tam-Cruickshank
2012, 103 min., Color, Trinidad & Tobago
This documentary features music and performances of legendary calypsonian Dr. Leroy Calliste, better known as Black Stalin.
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Duane Kubo
Producer: Visual Communications
1974, 30 min., Color, US
This is the story of the formation of the popular jazz fusion band, Hiroshima, in the late 70s. The musicians reflect on their culture, musical influences, and the political movements of the 1960's out of which Asian American music emerged.
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Alonzo Speight
1991, 10 min., Color, US
Through short improvised sketches, this video explores the generational conflicts between a father and son who are each musicians. It features performances by guitarist Mark Whittfield, and the late master drummer, Frederick Waits.
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Ben Herson, Magee McIlvaine & Chris Moore
Producer: Nomadic Wax and Sol Productions
2007, 66 min., Color, US/Senegal
"Democracy in Dakar" explores the transformative role of Hip-Hop in politics in Senegal, West Africa during the 2007 presidential election campaign. This documentary mixes interviews, freestyles, and commentary from journalists, artists and politicians. Senegalese society is seen on the brink of democratic change, where Hip-Hop artists are one of the few groups unafraid of speaking out.
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Balvinder Dhenjan
1996, 46 min., Color, US/UK
Shot in Chicago and London this energetic documentary follows three very different Punjabi bands and their attempts to use their music as a bridge between the competing cultural influences of India and America. They face and deal with racism, discover both Desi sex and Desi sexism, look for role models and confront politics, history, religion, and their own multiple heritages.
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Brett Mazurek
2009, 53 min., US/Uganda
From the ashes of four decades of war, AIDS and corruption in Uganda, The Bataka Squad artists, Babaluku and Saba Saba, rise to forge a revolutionary path using music. They are on a mission to empower the forgotten youth of Africa from within, while spreading their message of hope around the globe. Narrated by Spearhead singer Michael Franti, follow the Bataka movement to amplify the spirit of the next generation in this musical journey.
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Jeff Zimbalist & Matt Mochary
Color, Brazil
Their music fueled a movement. His message fought a war.
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Duncan Jepson
2007, 89 min., Color, China
A revealing documentary on the work and life of successful and independent Chinese Hip-Hop artists and their cultural influence in a society rapidly changing from communism to consumerism. Clashing with both traditional Chinese values and new modern ones, these artists believe that Hip-Hop allows for the expression of freedom and being true to oneself. Furthermore, the film describes the high optimism and convictions of this new generation that will inherit a political and economic superpower. Part of the H2ONewsreel collection.
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Vanessa Gocksch
2006, 58 min., Color, Colombia
FREKUENSIA KOLOMBIANA profiles the grassroots Hip-Hop scene in Colombia, exploring the popularity of all the elements--MCing, breakdancing, graffiti, and DJing--and their relation to the political and class realities of Colombia. Told through interviews of Hip-Hop artists, as well as regular residents of communities in Medellin, Bogota, Cali, and Barranquilla, we see the ways in which Hip-Hop's musical form is shaped specifically by Vallenato--Colombian folk music, as well as the political corruption, poverty, and the suppressed voices of the Colombian masses.
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Hans Fjellestad
Producer: Ryan Page
2003, 92 min., Color, US/Mexico
A feature-length documentary that explores beyond Tijuana s sin-city heritage and searches for the heart and identity of a city that is much more than a cantina-strewn throwback to the Old West. It approaches Tijuana on its own terms, looking at the city not so much in relationship to the U.S., the border, or even other regions of Mexico, but rather from the inside, within its own context. With easy access to cars and parts from the U.S., and a fast evolving dynamic in this Baja border city, the scene is an interesting intermixture of sophisticated Mexican aesthetics, norteno kitsch and frontier spirit -- an expression of style and speed all its own.
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Nicole Franklin
Producer: EPIPHANY Inc.
2010, 36 min., Color, US
In 2004 at her home in Oslo, Norway, soprano Anne Wiggins Brown sat down with tenor Dr. William A. Brown (no relation) of the Center Black Music Research for an on-the-record conversation about originating the iconic role of “Bess” in the opera Porgy and Bess with famed composer George Gershwin. Revealed are little known facts about what is arguably the most popular American opera touring to date.
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Bob Bryan
Producer: Bob Bryan
2005, 45 min., Color, US
An award-winning documentary that explores the eclectic world of Hip-Hop and the urban graffiti artist. GRAFFITI VERITE’ is the first up-close and personal expose’ into the graffiti art world as experienced by 24 artists whose medium is the spray can.
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Çiğdem Akbay
2007, 25 min., Color, Turkey
HIPHOPISTAN is a documentary film that examines the impact of Hip-Hop culture on Istanbul youth and reveals how young Turkish rappers, DJs, break-dancers, and graffiti artists creatively blend popular influences with their local cultural values and traditions. In a world that is becoming increasingly exposed to global media, much has been debated as to whether or not societies and individuals can adopt influences from music, television, cinema, internet and fashion in a positive and constructive way without losing their own cultural identities and heritage.
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Joshua Asen & Jennifer Needleman
Producer: Rizz Productions, Inc.
2007, 80 min., Color, US/Morocco
This feature-length documentary follows the creation of Morocco's first-ever Hip-Hop festival, from inception all the way to the stage. Along the way we meet DJ Key, a self-taught turntable prodigy who is torn between his love for Hip-Hop and his
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Alan Roth
2001, 60 min., Color, US
INSIDE OUT IN THE OPEN focuses on the revolutionary, avant-garde developments in Jazz that evolved in the early 1960's, expanding the boundaries in rhythm, sound, harmonics, and collective improvisation with an expansive openness and deep emotion. It's a tradition that continues to this day, still filled with creative energy and affecting newer and younger listeners. The only voices in this film are of the musicians themselves, speaking about creating music, influences, memories of the 60's and more. Features performances and interviews with Reggie Workman, Roswell Rudd, John Tchicai and Baikida Carroll plus many other notable Jazz performers.
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Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi
2005, 50 min., Color, US/Cuba
INVENTOS explores the burgeoning Hip-Hop scene in Cuba. In spite of the US trade embargo against Cuba, the Hip-Hop movement is flourishing with popular innovative groups such as EPG&B, Grandes Ligas, Anonimo Consejo, and Sexto Sentido offering creative energy and powerful social commentary on Cuban social issues and politics. Groups such as Orishas are profiled as one of the few Cuban Hip-Hop groups that live outside of Cuba and have a worldwide following. The film follows these artists to their homes, various performances, the Cuban Hip-Hop festival, and for many, their first time abroad to perform and record in New York.
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Jesse W Shipley
2007, 61 min., Color, US/Ghana
This film is a musical portrait of street life in urban West Africa. It follows the birth of Hiplife music in Accra, Ghana, a mix of various African musical forms and American hip hop. Archival footage and hip hop music videos are remixed with interviews and the daily lives of rap artists. We follow Reggie Rockstone, the Godfather of Hiplife in the founding of the musical movement, as well as the Mobile Boys a group of aspiring rap artists as they try to make it in the music business. With humor and personality these characters move across the political and musical landscape of urban Ghana.
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Angelica and Scott Macklin
Producer: Open Hand Reel
2008, 80 min., Color, South Africa/US
"Masizakhe, Building Each Other" explores the role of art, social activism and Hip-Hop in education and presents students, teachers, artists and principals working to support each other while re-establishing individual and cultural identities.This is an important and inspiring film that demonstrates that Hip-Hop is a global culture committed to peace and youth liberation. It has been a powerful means of initiating classroom and community discussions on these topics.
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John Fredericks
2006, 73 min., South Africa
MR. DEVIOUS is an exploration of the life and impact of South African Hip-Hop artist Mr. Devious on the youth and community of Cape Flats in Cape Town, South Africa. The film traces Mr. Devious' introduction to Hip-Hop, his hardcore style of rapping about ghetto life in Cape Flats, his experiences being signed to a major record label and then returning to life as an independent artist, his international traveling and recording, his mentoring of youth in and outside of prison, and his untimely murder. Throughout the film we watch his evolution, from a teenager influenced by the street life of his peers, to a young man choosing to become a formal mentor and role model to youth, speaking to them about life skills, violence, HIV/AIDS, corrupt politicians and developing programs for them within schools and prisons.
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Gustavo Paredes
1985, 59 min., Color, US
This film is an odyssey through the eyes, words and music of individuals who pioneered Afro-Cuban music in the United States. The video offers a rich overview of a wide number of musical styles from "Cubop" to Salsa, Big Band to jazz, and of musicians from Chano Ponzo to Tito Puente and Desi Arnaz to Johnny Colon. It examines the significant role of women performers and contains interviews with Mario Bauza and Dizzy Gillespie as they reveal the parallel course of jazz with the "latin sound".
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Jeremy Robins and Magali Damas
2010, 52 min., Color/BW, US/Haiti
Part carnival, part vodou ceremony, and part grassroots protest, Haitian “Rara” is one of the most breathtaking and contested forms of music in the Americas. The Other Side of the Water follows a group of young immigrants who take this ancient music from the hills of Haiti and reinvent it on the streets of Brooklyn. The documentary tells the story of an unlikely band that comes to speak for a larger community, and a music that manages to create a new meaning of home in the Diaspora.
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Allan Siegel
Producer: Third World Newsreel
1978, 30 min., Color, US
This is the first comprehensive U.S. film to explore the origins and growth of traditional Puerto Rican music. Interviews with musicians living in New York reveal how traditional music is used as a source of resistance against cultural domination. Their music is also a means by which Puerto Rican culture is maintained and transformed. The film focuses on the music of "Lexington Avenue Express", a group that has taken their music to community centers, political events, prisons and music festivals.
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Mabel Maio
1999, 48 min., Color, Uruguay
This documentary explores the history and modern reality of candombe, the drum music of Uruguay's black parade bands. It is a way of life that was born in the musical gatherings of slaves in urban marketplaces and plazas. Despite persistent racism, past and present, the 200,000 Uruguayans of African descent experience candombe as a way of life, as part of the cast of characters that inhabit the tenements of Montevideo's Reus and Ansina neighborhoods, where parents rock cradles with drummed lullabies, and children learn to play drums on oil cans.
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Shelton Ito
Producer: Third World Newsreel Workshop
1992, 5 min., Color, US
The Goong Hay Kid is the fictional Chinese rapper created and played by Alvin Eng. ROCK ME, GOONG HAY combines hip-hop styling with a forceful protest against stereotypes.
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Maori Karmael Holmes
2005, 45 min., Color, US
Right from the beginning of the hip hop movement, Philadelphia's artists have made major contributions as emcees, grafitti artists, dancers, and especially as deejays. Native talents such as Will Smith, The Roots and Eve have made great strides domestically and internationally. But somehow Philly still doesn't get the kind of props that L.A. or even Atlanta does, despite its unique proliferation of women emcees, vocalists, poets and deejays. Scene Not Heard seeks to tell the story of these women--the legends and the ingenues--as they struggle to succeed in a male-dominated industry.
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J.T. Takagi
Producer: Third World Newsreel
2005, 7 min., Color, US
Toni Blackman and the FreeStyle Union are challenging the male dominated world of hip hop and empowering women to speak their minds in freestyle workshops. This music video/documentary hopes to promote a movement of female MCs. Part of the Call for Change Series.
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Tadashi Nakamura
2009, 35 min., Color, US
A SONG FOR OURSELVES is an intimate journey into the life and music of Asian American Movement troubadour Chris Iijima. Struggling to make sense of their father’s early death, Iijima's teenage sons learn that during the 1970s when Asians in America were still considered “Orientals,” Chris’ music and passion for social justice helped provide the voice and identity an entire generation had been in search of. Through animated photographs, intimate home movies, archival footage of Chris’ introduction to nationwide television by John Lennon and Chris’ own songs, their father’s life takes on bigger meaning than they had ever dreamed of.
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Barbara McCullough
1980, 5 min., Color, US
A glance at an innovative quartet of jazz saxophonists, Hamiet Bluiet, Oliver Lake, Julius Hemphill, and David Murray, both in concert and conversation.
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