See the sound

Local film festival Sound Unseen presents its tenth year.

ItâÄôs a rare feat when Minneapolis is able to influence film culture in other, larger metropolises in the United States. Sound Unseen has managed to accomplish this feat and introduce an original film genre to a worldwide audience within its ten-year history.

 âÄúThe cool thing is that the films-on-music theme has developed, and a lot of festivals have sprouted up,âÄù said Rick Hansen, program director for Sound Unseen, âÄúThereâÄôs one in Barcelona called âÄúIn EditâÄú âĦ [Johannes KleinâÄôs] festival is now huge, heâÄôs got six festivals all over the world. He still âÄî to this day âÄî credits Sound Unseen for inspiring him to create this kind of festival, which was very flattering âÄòcause now heâÄôs way bigger than us,âÄù Hansen grinned.

Nate Johnson, primarily a music producer at the time, began planning the festival back in 1999. Johnson started talking to his studio-mate, Hansen, about the project early on.

 âÄú[Johnson] said, âÄòI want to start this festival and I want it to be all about music,âÄôâÄù Hansen explained.

While he was skeptical about it at first, JohnsonâÄôs superb programming selections for the first festival lent legitimacy to Hansen. Previous festival director Gretchen Williams took over for Johnson and integrated her marketing expertise to launch it further, and Hansen became the festivalâÄôs director in 2008. Soon, several assistant programmers were searching worldwide for films that matched their niche, bringing back big films from Sundance, SXSW, Cannesand elsewhere.

Artists old and new are exhibited throughout the festival. This yearâÄôs lineup happens to present films about musicians who are insane. Assorted musicians âÄî such as Lil Wayne, Phil Spector, David Byrne and Harry Nilsson âÄî are all mad as a hatter in their own right.

âÄúSo many of the more brilliant musicians [and] artists teeter on the line; theyâÄôre always hanging on the edge. ThatâÄôs what makes them so brilliant âÄî the fact that they are half crazy,âÄù Hansen said.

Hansen, in accordance with most critics, highly recommended âÄúThe Agony and the Ecstacy of Phil Spector.âÄù The film documents the turbulent trials of the notoriously gifted music producer, profiling his presumed psychosis and subsequent murder conviction. More importantly, it showcases his musical genius and the work he produced in the height of his career from 1960 to the early âÄô70s.

Though lacking a signed release of authorization, Mr. Spector reacted positively to the concept. Before being incarcerated for his conviction, Spector seemed excited that his work would be featured alongside any information on his trial. The producer was infamously introverted in regards to the press, and this film will be a substantial step forward in the telling of his story.

One film that is bound to please more than just the greek crowd is âÄúThe Carter,âÄù a documentary about the rapper LilâÄô Wayne. For 90 minutes the audience is taken through the drama that is the life of Weezy. He is exposed to those who have been closely following his career in a fresh way and excites those who are finally climbing out from under the rock. LilâÄô Wayne refused to sit down for an interview with the filmmaker, Adam Bhala Lough, but allowed the crew nearly unlimited access to his life. To be able to become immersed in LilâÄô WayneâÄôs day-to-day activities and to be able to understand his art better âÄî because it is clear that he is an artist and not just a rapper âÄî is a gripping experience. This film is able to present LilâÄô Wayne as something other than a cultural icon and more of a person with his own struggles, successesand story.

HansenâÄôs favorite film of the festival, âÄúWho Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody TalkinâÄô About Him),âÄù documents the life and career of singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson. Director John Scheinfeld covers all sides of Nilsson throughout this film âÄî from his life as a young man to the rise and fall of his career, his alcohol and drug use and, finally, to the caring father he was in the end.

 Even though few people actually know NilssonâÄôs name until they hear one of his popular tunes, his power and influence is clearly represented through the film. NilssonâÄôs legend is sure to stir up a revitalized interest in his music and create a strong following of new listeners.

âÄúYou canâÄôt walk away from this film without getting a Harry Nilsson song stuck in your head for the rest of the day,âÄù Hansen said.

The festival is not strictly limited to films and the production of music. Before the showing of âÄúWho Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody TalkinâÄô About Him),âÄù Gary Louris âÄî one of the founding members of the Jayhawks âÄî will be doing a performance of his own songs and some Nilsson covers. And while he caresses your ears, complimentary beer and wine will do the same to your tongue.

Also, preceding the David Byrne film, âÄúRide Rise Roar,âÄù there will be a dance performance by Steve Reker, who was in the film.

The festival is taking place at The Trylon, Southern Theater and The Red Stag, which enhance the intimacy of the films.

Showing these films at such a personal level connects the audience to the film and to one another, because everyone is on the same journey.