The Alison House Film Club

The Alison House Film Club (Music Department)

“Putting some Popcorn into Popular Music Studies!”

—The Alison House Film Club – Spring Programme —

31 March: Europe in 8 Bits (2013)

7 April:   Pavement: Slow Century (2002)

14 April: Backstreet Boys: Show’ Em What You’re Made Of (2015)

21 April: Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (2009)

28 April: The Last Angel of History (Afrofuturism) + Downtown 81 (1996/1981)

5 May:   Rokk í Reykjavík (Rock in Reykjavik) (1982)

12 May: Classic Albums Series: Steely Dan – Aja + Simply Red – Stars (1999/2004)

19 May: Sound it Out (2011) & Re-vinylized (2012)

26 May: Nick Cave: 20,000 Days on Earth (2014)


Next Tuesday (31 March) we’ll be showing the much lauded Europe in 8 bits and with that, the 1st block of this spring programme is over and done with. The programmers have sweated over the 2nd block for the last few weeks in the hope that we can continue to deliver thought provoking music documentaries of all sorts, as we promised in our initial manifesto.

You will find the programme for the 2nd block at the bottom of this letter along with synopsis for each film. As you can see, variety is the name of the game; indie-believers get their fix, those who are interested in exotic places will have the chance to see a documentary on the Icelandic punk scene at the beginning of the 80s and the “real” popular music studies will be served by documentaries on The Backstreet Boys and Simply Red. We are also proud to be able to show the brilliant 20.000 Days on Earth, a pseudo-autobiographical documentary on Nick Cave.

A new block also means a new screening room. From now on (including Europe in 8 bits) we’ll be operating in Lecture Room B, rather than the Common room. We’re still in Alison House though…

Here’s info on Europe in 8 bits, and many thanks to our very own Yati Durant for making this possible but Yati is the programme director for MSc in Composition for Screen among other things:

Europe in 8 bits is a documentary that explores the world of chip music, a new musical trend that is growing exponentially throughout Europe. The stars of this musical movement reveal to us how to reuse old videogames hardware like Nintendo’s GameBoy, NES, Atari ST, Amiga and the Commodore 64 to turn them into a tool capable of creating a new sound, a modern tempo and an innovative musical style. This is a new way of interpreting music performed by a great many artists who show their skills in turning these “limited” machines designed for leisure in the 80’s into surprising musical instruments and graphical tools. It will leave nobody indifferent.

The Alison House Film Club is devoted to thought provoking music documentaries of all sorts. Each screening will be preceded by a short introduction, where the films will be put into musicological context and afterwards the room will be open for discussion.

Screenings will take place in Lecture Room B which is located on the 2nd floor of the Alison House (a.k.a the Edinburgh University Music Department), which is in Nicolson Square, beside the Elephants & Bagels coffee shop. It takes place on a weekly basis from 4 – 6 pm on Tuesdays, and admission is free.

Kieran Curran and Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen, programmers.

…and with info:


7 April:   Pavement: Slow Century (2002)

A 90-minute documentary directed by Lance Bangs (who did the Slint documentary) on this seminal underground rock band. Extensive interviews with the band members (as well as their friend Thurston Moore) and considerable live concert footage from across their career. The film concludes with the encore from their final live show, held in London in 1999. Interspersed throughout are brief clips from home movies, television appearances and behind-the-scenes footage

14 April: Backstreet Boys: Show’ Em What You’re Made Of (2015)

An emotionally open and honest film portrait, this documentary explores the highs and lows from boyhood to manhood that  led the former boyband megastars to a London studio in 2012 to write a new album, make a film and plan their 20th anniversary re-launch. The reunion renewed friendships, but dynamic shifts reveal new and old tensions that need confronting and resolving. This is a surprising and rewarding journey filmed over two years that delves into the extremes of fame and fortune, betrayal and renewal.

21 April: Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (2009)

Glenn Gould was one of the most celebrated and controversial classical musicians of the 20th century. His obsessive quest for perfectionism while rejecting the influence of the audience led him to abandon live performances in favor of recording in 1964. While Gould’s very public eccentricities have been nearly as well documented as his talents, filmmakers Michele Hozer and Peter Raymont pose a very provocative question in their documentary Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould: Was Gould truly as strange as he was believed to be, or were his quirks part of a facade the artist carefully constructed to intrigue and challenge the listening audience?

28 April: The Last Angel of History (Afrofuturism) + Downtown 81 (1996/2001)

The Last Angel of History deals with concepts of Afrofuturism as a metaphor for the displacement of black culture and roots. Documentary segments include traditional talking-head clips from musicians, writers, and social critics, as well as archival video footage and photographs. Described as “A truly masterful film essay about Black aesthetics that traces the deployments of science fiction within pan-African culture”.

Downtown 81 is a feature film starring the legendary American artist Jean Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) Basquiat was a 19 year old painter, graffiti artist, poet and musician when he played the lead in this film, which vividly depicts the explosive downtown New York art and music scene of 1980-81.

5 May:   Rokk í Reykjavík (Rock in Reykjavik) (1982)

Rokk í Reykjavík has a legendary status in Iceland today and is generally considered to be the most influential music documentary made in the country. This watershed of a movie was filmed during the winter of 1981-1982 and released for the local television in April, 1982. It showcases the alternative music scene through several performances, taken from different concerts and accompanied by short interviews with the musicians. A very young Björk and several future Sugarcubes all make an appearance.

12 May: Classic Albums Series: Steely Dan – Aja + Simply Red – Stars (1999/2004)

Pioneering pop/jazz band Steely Dan, formed by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker in the early seventies, had already secured five Top 40 albums before the release of Aja in 1977. Aja, however, was to prove to be the biggest selling album of Steely Dan’s illustrious career. Becker and Fagen, renowned for their relentless perfectionism in the recording studio, recall the history of an album that was a year in the making. Contains a surprising amount of hilarious banter and cynical jokes (well, the latter was not that surprising).

One of Britain’s most successful pop bands of the 80s and 90s, Simply Red formed in 1985 and released the number one album, ‘Stars’ in 1991, which topped the charts for 19 weeks. We learn of Mick Hucknall’s musical vision and the inspiration behind the songs he wrote and recorded for what is considered to be the classic Simply Red album. The Alison House Film Club’s humble contribution to the fledgling “real” popular music studies.

19 May: Sound it Out (2011) and Re-vinylized (2012)

A documentary portrait of the very last surviving vinyl record shop in Stockton-on-Tees, in the North East of England. Starring Tom, Kelly, David, Daniel, 70,000 records and the good people of Teesside. A distinctive, funny and intimate film about men, obsession and the irreplaceable role music plays in our lives. High Fidelity with a Northern Accent. Got any Makina?

From Stockton to Chicago, our second screening on this day is Revinylized, a shorter documentary offering a particular snapshot of the contemporary record shop in a city indelibly stamped by popular music culture.

26 May: Nick Cave: 20,000 Days on Earth (2014)

Drama and reality combine in a fictitious 24 hours in the life of musician and international cultural icon Nick Cave. With startlingly frank insights and an intimate portrayal of the artistic process, the film examines what makes us who we are, and celebrates the transformative power of the creative spirit.

Note: All movie info lifted from and/or with inspired editing at times from the programmers.

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