A medley of great music, both live and filmed, comes to the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center this weekend. Eight documentary films, ranging in subject from the history of the ukulele to new perspectives on legendary bands like The Beatles and forgotten jazz-pop performers like Gary McFarland, begin playing on Friday, June 14. This mini-event is titled the Film + Music Festival, and local musicians will perform live in between film events.
Film Center director Richard Paradise developed the idea for the mini-festival after the success of “Searching for Sugar Man,” a documentary about the re-discovered American folk musician Sixto Rodriquez. Thought to have committed suicide, Rodriquez was found living in relative obscurity in Detroit and has enjoyed a revival as a result of the film about him. “Searching for Sugar Man” proved so popular last year at the Film Center that it played repeatedly throughout the fall and winter.
“Music is so important in our lives, just like the movies,” Mr. Paradise said in a recent telephone interview. “The music you grew up with is what you stay with. It resonates.”
He felt that a festival weekend would provide an opportunity to bring together a wide variety of music genres and subjects, whether individual performers, groups or eras. Combining them into one weekend event also allows the audience to examine the cultural impact of music or simply take a trip down nostalgia lane through film. Mr. Paradise plans to offer Music + Film annually in June.
The Festival opens Friday with a performance by members of Featherstone’s Uke Jam, followed by a 4 pm screening of “The Mighty Uke.” Directed by Tony Coleman, this film outlines the origins and history of the ukelele, the little Hawaiian instrument that has found new popularity in recent years.
The 6:30 pm opening night reception features cocktail music by Wes Nagy on the piano, followed by the 7:30 pm premiere of “Good Ol’ Freda.” This documentary about The Beatles’ secretary, Freda Kelly, will be introduced by mvyradio’s Ray Whitaker of Just Four Guys. Mvyradio is the noncommercial Internet-only radio station formed after WBUR bought the Island’s local radio station, 92.7 FM, last year. “Sound City,” about the celebrated California recording studio, follows “Good Ol’ Freda,” at 9:30 pm. Directed by Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters, this documentary won a South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival Audience Award.
Three more films will play on Saturday, June 15. “Downloaded: The Story of Napster” premieres at 4 pm with a look at the origins of digital media sharing directed by Alex Winter. A performance by Rick Bausman’s Steel Drum Trio starts at 6:30 pm and is followed at 7:30 pm by “Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation.” Director Laura Archibald will attend the screening of this documentary, which is jam-packed with archival footage and interviews from many of the singer/songwriter greats of the 60s and early 70s. The 9:30 pm screening of “Crossfire Hurricane” is a tribute to the Rolling Stones that marks their 50th anniversary as a band, and producer Victoria Pearman, co-founder with Mick Jagger of Jagged Films, will attend.
Film + Music wraps on Sunday, June 16, with two more films starting at 4 pm when mvyradio’s Dave Kish, host of All That Jazz, introduces “This Is Gary McFarland.” Director Kristian St. Clair delves into the life and music of the too-often overlooked jazz composer and musician in this film.
Live music from the Island trio of Eric Johnson, Jeremy Berlin, and Shelagh Hackett follows at 6 pm with a selection of rock and roll music by the late lyricist Doc Pomus. Screening at 7:30 pm, the documentary, “AKA Doc Pomus,” completes the festival offerings. Paralyzed by polio, Doc Pomus wrote many of the best-known pop tunes from the 50s and 60s, including “A Teenager in Love” and “Turn Me Loose.” His daughter, Sharyn Felder, will attend the screening to answer questions.
Film + Music Festival passes are available for $60; $40 for M.V. Film Society members. Individual tickets are $12; $7 for M.V. Film Society members. For tickets or more information, or call 508-696-9369, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The M.V. Film Center is located in the Tisbury Marketplace in Vineyard Haven.