North by Northeast music festival announces film program lineup, including three Canadian premieres

North by Northeast music festival announces film program lineup, including three Canadian premieres

At NXNE, Toronto will get to see a look into the life of the late Jay Reatard (right) (Image: Po’Jay) 

Like most music festivals these days, North by Northeast offers more than just live concerts—it boasts workshops, merchandise and a film program alongside the 650 bands slated to perform between June 13 and 19 in Toronto. In fact, NXNE recently announced several Canadian premieres aimed squarely at film buff-cum-music fans, including Kunst-Camera: J.X. Williams’ Cabinet of Curiosities, Color Me Obsessed and Better Than Something: Jay Reatard. More about the films making their Canadian debut after the jump.

As the gala film of the 2011 festival, Kunst-Camera: J.X. Williams’ Cabinet of Curiosities is rare piece of cinema—it looks at the work of director J.X. Williams, who holds a place in the American avant-garde alongside the likes of Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger and the Kuchar brothers. Williams also influenced both Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorcese, producing work like the 1965 film Peep Show, which was once described by the New York Times as “a kind of spiritual vortex of sub rosa Americana surrounding the Kennedy assassination.” (It seems Williams is just as provocative today—rumour has it that Kunst-Camera led to heavy police presence at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival.)

Color Me Obsessed is a movie as much about its musical subject, The Replacements, as it is about music fandom. Director Gorman Berchard looks at the influential ’80s indie-rock band through interviews with friends, fan and peers. These aren’t typical interviews either—the film features commentary by musicians like Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, Tommy Ramone, and Grant Hart and Greg Norton of Husker Du; journalists like Robert Christgau, Legs McNeil, and Greg Kot; and famous fans like Tom Arnold and Dave Foley. On his website, Berchard comments, “People believe in God without seeing or hearing him but rather through the passion, faith and stories of others. After watching Colour Me Obsessed, I’m pretty sure music fans will believe in The Replacements in much the same way.”

Better Than Something: Jay Reatard is an intimate portrait of indie icon and punk rocker Jay Reatard (real name Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr.) that features footage shot at Reatard’s home months before his tragic death in 2010 at the age of 29. The trailer suggests the film is partly a tour of the musician’s life—it has footage of Reatard pointing out where he recorded his first record (a tiny, nondescript house), performing onstage, and practising with his band—and also an attempt at understanding Reatard’s sudden passing. At one point, Reatard turns to the camera and says, “Some people seem to think that you have a certain amount of songs before you dry up, or whatever. I tend to think its an amount of time, so like, I’m racing against time constantly.”

NXNE will screen 40 films during this year’s festival. Screenings are held at NFB Cinema Toronto: Mediateque and the Toronto Underground Cinema.