So you’ve got this well-known music festival that swamps its hometown with an astounding array of shows, while its lesser-known film program is still developing an identity and following of its own. No, not SXSW (which at this point has successfully established itself as a formidable film festival in its own right) I’m talking about the CMJ Music Marathon, which for years has sent New York-based indie music fans barreling around the city trying to talk their way into shows that are invariably already sold out.
CMJ’s FilmFest, which this year ran from October 31 to November 4, is often overlooked in the shuffle, in part because the films in the line-up already have theatrical distribution, and in part because no one’s really figured out what a music festival’s taste in film should be like. Do you show films about music? Or just films that would appeal to people who like music? Who doesn’t like music? This year, the FilmFest had its share of big, shiny preview screenings “Borat,” with Sacha Baron Cohen appearing, naturally, in character; “The Fountain”; “Stranger Than Fiction” but also has other, more intriguing concert titles tucked away inside. Sam Erickson’s “My Morning Jacket: Okonokos” captures the jam band live on stage in as prime a location as you could imagine: The Fillmore in San Francisco, California. Making its world premiere at the FilmFest was Baillie Walsh’s “Oasis: Lord Don’t Slow Me Down,” which catches up with the famously mercurial Britpop band, following them for seven months on their Don’t Believe the Truth world tour. Noel Gallagher appeared after the screening for a Q&A to placate whatever stalwart Oasis fans are left in the world.
Most interesting of all were the two side programs highlighting the most maligned of film-related genres, the music video. Northern Transmissions at Scandinavia House offered a range of not-often-shown Nordic music videos, and Chuck Statler: Before MTV, at the Museum of Modern Art, took a closer look at “the godfather of the music video.” Statler, whose music films for DEVO led to his making what were essentially music videos for artists like Nick Lowe and Madness long before MTV, appeared in conversation with Jeff Krulik of the cult classic short film “Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” a combination that seems that include the best conflation of music and filmmaking. Sadly, “HMPL” was not shown the documentation of fans waiting for a Judas Priest concert has always said more about music to some of us than a million beautifully shot live shows.