SIFF “Face the Music”: An interview with curator Marco Collins

With the music-drenched memories of Memorial Day weekend fading slowly, the Seattle International Film Festival has several music-oriented films screening this week and next as part of their Face the Music series to keep your ears buzzing. These films are a collection of documentaries, biopics, and concert films that have music at the forefront.

KEXP blog writers Chris Estey and Masa have been previewing many of the films including Paul Williams: Still Alive, Bad Brains: A Band in DC, and Under African Skies. A summary of KEXP’s coverage of SIFF can be found here.

Most of the films in this series have screenings left before the festival ends on Sunday, June 10th. Highlights include Welcome To Doe Bay, a moving documentary on Charles Bradley, a free outdoor screening of Coal Miner’s Daughter at the Mural Amphitheater on 6/8, and Emerald City Visions (A Hip Hop Reinterpretation of The Wiz).

This year, the Face the Music series was curated by longtime DJ and Seattle music icon Marco Collins. This gave him a chance to work with two of his deep loves, music and film, and explore how they intersect. Marco shared his passion with KEXP here:

You’ve been a part of the festival for some time now right? What has your involvement with SIFF been over the years?

I’ve volunteered for SIFF for a couple of seasons now and am a huge fan of the festival. Every year I would map out a schedule to see as many films as I could. This year, they asked me to curate the Face The Music program, which I was ecstatic to do. Working with music and film… It was the best of both worlds for me.

What was the most surprising or challenging thing you discovered about programming this year’s ‘Face the Music’ series?

First of all, I had no idea how much work goes into creating a film festival. The SIFF programming team has mountains of films to watch and consider for the festival. Some brilliant… some not so much. I think the most challenging thing for me was not being able to get every film that I wanted. When I started I assumed that we could screen anything that we wanted. I’m used to working in radio where you play what you want to (with or without permission) and that’s just not the case with a film festival. There’s so many factors that go into the decision making process: has the film ever screened in Seattle before? Is there a commercial or theatrical release that would conflict with the timing of the festival? Is the darn film completed yet? Does the film company want the film in the festival? It was an educational experience to say the least!

How many films did you watch before narrowing the selection to the ones presented?

The Face The Music Programming team watched hundreds before we narrowed it down to the final series. We met once a week and deliberated over the best of the best.

What are your 3 MUST SEE films in this series?

Can I pick 4?

1. Under African Skies: This film documents Paul Simon’s return to Africa to recreate “Graceland”. I had no idea about the political ramifications of making “Graceland” in 1986 during Apartheid. This is a powerful film. Definitely got me teared up.

2. Bad Brains: Band in DC: This is a story about one of the most important US punk bands of all time and their internal struggles with a less than stable frontman. There’s some amazing cameos in this flick: Adam “MCA” Yauch (Beastie Boys), Ian Mckaye (Minor Threat/Fugazi/Dischord Records), Henry Rollins (Black Flag) and Dave Grohl (Scream//Nirvana/Foo Fighters).

3. Beware of Mr. Baker: A gritty documentary about Ginger Baker (drummer extraordinaire for the 60’s rock band Cream). I won’t reveal too much about this film, but let’s just say that Ginger breaks the director’s nose in the first five minutes of the film. INTENSE! It won the Grand Jury Prize at the SXSW Film Festival this year!

4. Welcome To Doe Bay: This doc about the Orcas Island music festival is gonna reaffirm the Northwest’s reputation of musical fertility. Amazing appearances in the film from The Head and The Heart, The Maldives, Damien Jurado, Pickwick, Champagne Champagne and Fly Moon Royalty.

There are a lot of different musical genres and several different countries represented in the selection. What kind of experience were you hoping to create for SIFF viewers?

We wanted a well rounded Face The Music series and I have to be honest, I had to be reeled in at times. I tend to favor indie rock and was leaning rather “indie”. I feel great about what we were able to create this year… we’ve got a little bit of everything.

Are there any other films showing during SIFF that you’re really excited about and hope people see?

I really liked “Fat Kid Rules The World” which was set and filmed in Seattle. Mike McCready of Pearl Jam scored the film and it’s a great little NW comedy. “Eden” is another must-see from Seattle director, Megan Griffiths, but is far from a comedy. Be prepared to shed some tears in the drama based on a true story of human trafficking. Eden won the Audience Award at this year’s SXSW Film Fest.

One interesting thing SIFF has been doing is creating events that integrate film with live music/performances. We got to see artists like Damien Jurado and The Maldives perform a live score to silent films from a bygone era. This year is a little different. Can you tell us about how an original hip hop reinterpretation of The Wiz came together?

This year, I wanted to do something that involved the Seattle hip hop community and film. So we created a live event that took place on Friday, June 1st at the Triple Door called Emerald City Visions, curated by Larry Mizell Jr (The Stranger Music Columnist & KEXP’s Street Sounds host) and featuring a hip hop reinterpretation of “The Wiz” produced by OC Notes. There were live performances by Mizell’s own Don’t Talk To The Cops, Metal Chocolates and DJ DV-One mixing a history of Seattle hip hop videos. It was something very different for SIFF, but with the growth of the NW hip hop scene, the timing couldn’t have been better.

Read more reviews and previews from the “Face the Music” series as part of the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival here.

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