In 2016, MovieMaker called Sound Unseen one of the “25 coolest film festivals in the world,” right up there with film fests in France, New York and Havana. Now in its 19th year, Sound Unseen is more than an annual film fest. It’s a year-round Twin Cities presence, hosting monthly screenings at the Trylon, one of the 25 coolest movie houses in the world.
Sound Unseen 2018 will take place Wednesday, Nov. 14, through Sunday, Nov. 18, with screenings at the Trylon, the Bryant-Lake Bowl and opening night at the Uptown VFW. It includes 23 indie films (nearly 40, if you count all the shorts and extras) on music and musicians, labels and the arts. Most are Minnesota or Midwest premieres. Here’s a selection that jumped out at us.
“Sonic Youth: 30 Years of ‘Daydream Nation.’ ” For the 30th anniversary of the album’s release, filmmaker Lance Bangs and Babes in Toyland’s Lori Barbero will present “Daydream Nation”-related films and excerpts from Bangs’ new concert film of the band performing the album live in Glasgow in 2007. (If you’re planning to see the Walker’s “Thurston Moore: Moore at 60” on Nov. 9-10, this would be a great follow-up.)
“Mr. SOUL!” From 1968-73 – before Oprah, before Arsenio, on the heels of the Civil Rights movement – producer Ellis Haizlip hosted a groundbreaking PBS variety show devoted to the African American experience. “SOUL!” is now considered one of the most culturally significant TV shows in U.S. history. Director Melissa Haizlip will be in attendance.
“Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records.” Founded in Denver in 1975, relocated to Chicago in 1978, Wax Trax! was a hugely influential retail store and label that focused on international New Wave, punk rock, jazz and experimental music. The first screening has already sold out.
“Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes.” In archival performance clips, interviews, and photos, director Sophie Huber tells the story of one of the most important record labels in the history of jazz, from its founding in New York in 1939 by German-Jewish refugees Alfred Lion and Frances Wolff to its remarkable renaissance under Don Was.
“Shake Sister Shake: Women in Blues.” A new look at an old genre – the blues – still dominated by men, Lisa Eismen’s film features the best female blues artists from California to New York. Narrated by Bruce Iglauer (Alligator Records), Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, it explores their struggles, relationships, sisterhood and music.
“Mapplethorpe.” Made with the support of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, featuring his original art, this is the first-ever biopic of the controversial artist. With Matt Smith (“Doctor Who,” “The Crown”) in the title role, it traces his life from the start of his friendship with Patti Smith to his final struggle with AIDS. Director Ondi Timoner had full access to archival material and early works.
“Milford Graves Full Mantis.” The first-ever feature-length portrait of percussionist Graves, a founding pioneer of avant-garde jazz who remains one of the most influential living figures in the evolution of the form. Directed by Jake Meginsky and Neil Young (not that Neil Young), this film takes you inside Graves’ life and heart.
“Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don’t Know Me.” Olivia Lichtenstein’s film tracks the R&B legend’s career from his breakout with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes through his meteoric chart success, the tragic accident that left him paralyzed and his perseverance. Lichtenstein will be in attendance.
The opening night party on Nov. 14 will be at the Uptown VFW, with DJ Jake Rudh hosting “Transmission.” Panels and live music events are being finalized. More than 20 visiting filmmakers will be at the festival. FMI including the complete schedule, tickets and trailers.
Tonight (Thursday, Oct. 25) at the U’s Andersen Library: Exhibit reception for “Such a Big Dream: Edward S. Curtis at 150.” Seattle-based photographer Edward S. Curtis, a white man, spent 30 years photographing Native Americans. Between 1907 and 1930, he published more than 2,000 of his sepia-toned photographs in a series of 20 volumes titled “The North American Indian.” Co-curated by Curtis expert Christopher Cardozo, this exhibit looks at Curtis’ work, his life and the impact he had on photography. Today Curtis’ photographs are considered controversial. To learn more about that, you can read this, for starters. 5:30-8:30 p.m. FMI and reservations. Free. Ends Jan. 18.
Tonight at Carver County Library in Chanhassen: Club Book: Brian Freeman. Best-selling novelist Freeman has made Duluth famous around the world, at least for readers. His hugely popular Jonathan Stride detective series is set there – and his books have been printed in 22 languages and sold in 46 countries. Freeman also pens the Cab Bolton series, about a Florida investigator. But this time he’s out with the latest Jonathan Stride, a page-turner called “Alter Ego.” 6:30 p.m. FMI. Free.
Tonight through Saturday at the Great Hall in Lowertown: Artability Art Show & Sale. Presented each year by People Incorporated, this sale celebrates the creativity of people with mental illnesses and their contributions to our community. Nearly 160 artists from the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota will offer more than 550 works of high-quality art for sale. Artists take home 80 percent of the show proceeds; the remaining 20 percent support People Incorporated’s year-round Artability workshops, which are open at no cost to any adult over 18 with a mental health diagnosis. 180 5th St. East in St. Paul. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. FMI. Free.
Sunday in the Ordway Concert Hall: The Sphinx Virtuoso. Performing music by Shostakovich – and by Syrian American composer Kareem Roustom, Uruguayan American composer Miguel del Aguila, and multiple Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard – the musicians of this acclaimed chamber ensemble walk the walk and play the tunes of diversity in classical music. All are alumni of the internationally renowned Sphinx Competition for black and Latino classical soloists. See the concert, then stick around for a post-show mingle with members of the orchestra. FMI and tickets ($10-20; students free).
Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Paul: VocalEssence Chorus & Ensemble Singers and the St. Olaf Choir: “Music for a Grand Cathedral.” Glorious voices and music in a glorious space. One of many special performances in VocalEssence’s 50th anniversary year, this concert will feature a full rendering of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Mass in G minor,” written when the composer turned 50. There’s a nice bit of synchronicity. 2 p.m. FMI and tickets ($10-40).
Monday at the Cedar: Joep Beving. We were intrigued by the story: tall Dutch ad man makes solo piano album that goes viral on Spotify and is heard by a Deutsche Grammophon record executive in a Berlin bar. Then we listened to the music and found it beautiful. Minimalist and layered, with delicate melodies that settle into grooves, it’s “simple music for complex emotions,” as Beving describes it. Soothing but not smoothing. For his third album, “Conatus” (his second on DG), Beving invited friends including synth pioneer Suzanne Ciani and Cello Octet Amsterdam to rework pieces from his first two albums. He’s touring behind “Conatus” now and will likely bring a combination of solo piano and new sounds to the Cedar. Minneapolis band Iceblink will open. If you’re wondering “How tall is he?” the answer is 6’10”. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 7:30. FMI and tickets ($22 advance, $25 day of show).