The Vancouver International Film Festival runs from Sept. 27 to Oct. 12.
Beware of Mr. Baker
Sept. 28, Oct. 2, Oct. 6 at Granville
The title of Jay Bulger’s highly entertaining rock doc comes from the cheeky sign that greets visitors who dare enter the gated South African compound belonging to legendary drummer Ginger Baker, his young wife and 39 polo ponies. At 73, Baker may be a shell of his former, drug-addled self when he was banging the skins for Cream and Blind Faith, living in Nigeria and jamming with likes of Fela Kuti or holding his own alongside some of the jazz world’s finest percussionists. But he proves as eccentric, surly and volatile as ever, going so far as breaking the director’s nose with a cane after learning his intentions to interview former bandmates. Bulger, who lived with Baker over the course of three months for a Rolling Stone article, falls prey to inserting himself into the film more than necessary but still captures the reckless and often Quixotic spirit of his subject, who was as famous for his offstage antics as his riveting performances. Baker may be an ex-heroin addict, a dysfunctional bandmate, a bad husband, an absent father, a poor businessman and violent host, but as this documentary confirms, he remains one of the greatest drummers living today.
My Father and the Man in Black
Oct. 2 at Pacific Cinematheque, 9, 11 at Granville
Working tirelessly behind the scenes as Johnny Cash’s manager in the ’60s and ’70s surely was a thankless task for Canadian Saul Holiff, who doesn’t even garner his own Wikipedia entry. But it was also difficult on his son Jonathan who not only grew up without much of a dad for most of his childhood, but couldn’t understand why his father would commit suicide late in life. Unfortunately, viewers will be no closer to understanding either, even though Holiff’s son, who’s the film’s director, writer, producer and narrator, states from the outset that he intends to “go through” Cash to uncover his father’s story. That means plenty of reheated history already covered in the biopic Walk the Line, an over-reliance on reenactments and some painfully stilted narration that sounds as if it was read to an elementary school class. While the subject might be interesting to music fans, the film’s cheesy execution strips it of all intrigue and subtlety.
Re:Generation Music Project
Oct. 6 at Granville, Oct. 9 at the Vogue.
Just as the Judgment Night soundtrack paired hip hop artists with rock bands in 1993, Re:Generation sees hotshot DJs team up with an array of unlikely collaborators, from jazz musicians and Motown stars to classic rock fogies and a symphony orchestra—with equally pointless and instantly dated results. British producer Mark Ronson comes out the least scathed from this series of unholy musical matrimonies, laying down a respectable New Orleans stomp with Erykah Badhu, Mos Def, Trombone Shorty, members of the Dap-tones and Meters drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste. But the rest of Amir Bar-Lev’s overly gushy doc feels like one big wank session where DJs and their fans try to legitimize their art form by bastardizing another. Whether it’s scenes of the Crystal Method writing cringe-inducing lyrics for Martha Reeves or “dub step” producer Skrillex pumping up the jam with the remaining, doddering members of the Doors, it’s not particularly interesting to watch, let alone listen to.
Play Like a Lion: The Legacy of Maestro Ali Akbar Khan
Oct. 9, 11 at Pacific Cinematheque
Joshua Dylan Mellar’s meditative documentary examines the legacy of Maestro Ali Akbar Khan, who along with Ravi Shankar, is most often credited with bringing classical Indian music to the West. Mixing history with the philosophies and spirituality behind the music, Play Like a Lion is also about Ali Akbar Khan’s legacy, and the passing of the torch to his 26-year-old son, Alam. Like the music itself, the film feels dense, yet calm and measured, which, depending on what side of the transcendental plane you’re on, is either a spiritually satisfying experience or a little dull.