It’s IFFR again! The International Film Festival of Rotterdam has started and as always, the program is spectacular! From the wide variety of titles, we chose to present to you the music films that you can watch at this year’s festival. So, just hop on a train, get to Rotterdam (if you don’t live there already) and hit one of the many screening rooms spread around the beautiful city.


Shut Up Sona – Deepti Gupta

Sona Mohapatra is being sued by a religious community because her musical interpretation of an 800-year-old poem is too Western, vulgar and provides a poor example to the young. She receives death threats. Trolls insult her on social media day and night. In addition, she is barred from performing lucrative gigs at universities because she accused a powerful promoter of excluding female artists in an open letter. But Sona won’t stop drawing attention to abuses. However loudly the machos and misogynists bay for her to shut up.



Rebel Dread – William E. Badgley

Documentary about Don Letts who played a leading role in pop history. As a young man, the charismatic, cheeky Letts moved effortlessly between soul, reggae and the violent guitar music of the first punk bands. Inspired by the film with Jimmy Cliff “The Harder They Come”, he started filming his friends with a Super-8 camera and soon began directing music videos and later documentaries.



Mister Soul – A Story About Donny Hathaway – David Kleijwegt

Can there be such a thing as too much talent? Music magazine Rolling Stone called Hathaway a “soul legend” and Justin Timberlake thinks he is “the best singer of all time”. The documentary follows the same path of existence as Hathaway himself: a poetic journey embarking on cities like St. Louis, Chicago and New York that plunges deeper and deeper into Hathaway’s life, up until his tragic end. Besides his brother and sisters, singer Roberta Flack, preacher Jesse Jackson and producer James Mtume, among others, talk about the genius and madness of the singer.



The Rise of the Synths – Iván Castell

This stylish documentary with a soundtrack by Ogre consists of interviews with many important artists such as Scandroid, Miami Nights 1984 and Carpenter Brut. Director John Carpenter (The Fog, Halloween) acts as the narrator. He is one of synthwave’s heroes, primarily because of the often haunting soundtracks he created for his own films, using synthesizers, obviously. As a mentor he provides advice to younger musicians.

Mr. Jimmy – Peter Michael Dowd

There are fans, bigger fans and then there is Akio Sakurai. Since the Japanese guitarist saw The Song Remains the Same as a teenager, he has been consumed by a fascination for Led Zeppelin. Not only does he know all the variations the British rock group played live, he can also reproduce them down to the last detail. As an homage to guitarist Jimmy Page, Sakurai has been performing in Japan for decades as Mr. Jimmy.



The Heart Is a Drum – Jacob Frössén

This documentary on unusual artist Klaus Dinger (1946-2008) chooses equally unusual perspectives: an audio artefact from 1971, a telephone interview from 1998 and interviews with drummers from famous bands. Swedish director Jacob Frössén attempts to unravel the sentimental secret behind the man who created the ‘Motorik Beat’, the repetitive drumbeat with an almost ritualistic effect. Dinger preferred to call it endlose gerade (‘the endless straight on’) – for Frössén, an excellent metaphor for cataloguing the romantic and creative life of an iconic, if heartbroken, German musician.



Heel-and-Toe – Maxim Tomash

With his trumpet, hamster and a good mood, Anton Kuznetsov tours Eastern Europe as Antoha MC, a Russian hipster one-man band with a happy message. His positive music for party audiences features great beats, personal raps and colourful trumpet solos. At home, where Russian authorities are trying to constrain rap, not everyone understands his good intentions. This intimate documentary portrait features no interviews, voice-overs or talking heads. Instead, the filmmakers follow Kuznetsov on tour while the subdued artist develops from a modest cult figure into a rising superstar.



Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story – Posy Dixon

Right from the start of his career, Beverly Glenn-Copeland (1944) was an outsider: the only black classical music student at the McGill music academy in Canada, as well as one of few open homosexuals at a time – the early 1960s – when this was still a criminal offence. For a long time, Glenn-Copeland lived as a lesbian woman – until he realised he was transgender. The gentle, engaging Glenn-Copeland talks in the film about the friction with his parents, but also about the spirituals his mother taught him. We also see how, at the age of 74, he finally gets the recognition his music deserves: performing to sell-out venues, including at Utrecht’s Le Guess Who? festival.