Doc’n Roll Film Festival 2021

Since 2013, Doc’n Roll Film Festival has championed the world’s best independent music films in a yearly celebration of subcultures, scenes and marginal voices. This year, the female-led and BFI-backed institution presents 34 feature-length documentaries and eight shorts for the festival’s 8th edition — which kicks off across six cinemas in central London on October 28th before highlights go on to screen across the country.

Past editions have showcased works on the likes of Beverly Glenn-Copeland, PJ Harvey, and krautrock pioneer Klaus Dinger of NEU!, and screened at iconic venues such as the Barbican and Manchester’s HOME. For this year’s edition, we celebrate the festival’s ongoing excellence with five highlights from the festival programming. Enjoy our picks below.

Talk Talk: In a Silent Way

Prior to his death in 2019, Talk Talk singer Mark Hollis was notorious for his refusal to engage with the press. He was no less welcoming to Belgian superfan Gwenaël Breës, who went through extraordinary lengths to unravel the mystery behind the band’s legendary 1988 experimental post-rock album ‘Spirit of Eden’.

The resulting film, ‘In a Silent Way’ is as abstract and ambitious as the album it sought to depict. It’s the story of one man and a boom mic on a quest to make a film about a deeply influential band — admired by everyone from Radiohead to 2021 Mercury Prize nominees Mogwai — who did not want to be filmed. 

Buena Vista Social Club

In 1997, Buena Vista Social Club’s eponymous debut (and only official) album became an international sensation, with the Cuban ensemble awarded a Grammy the following year. It was the product of a group of veterans from Cuban music’s golden age, and it remains the biggest-selling “world music” album of all time.

Legendary filmmaker Wim Wenders directed a documentary on the creation of the record in 1999, and in 2o21 the Oscar-nominated production returns to the big screen at Doc’n Roll, a year after it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. It tells the story of the famous album’s origins, and of the halcyon days of Cuba’s music scene, climaxing with the band’s sole performance in America at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1998.

Goat Girl

Goat Girl: On All Fours

At the Rio Cinema in Dalston, London experimental post-punk band Goat Girl share a new documentary shot during lockdown, when 23-year-old singer-guitarist Ellie Rose Davies was being treated for stage 4 cancer in Cornwall. 

The creative sessions from the same period would inform the band’s second album ‘On All Fours’, which was released to critical acclaim in January this year. The documentary will receive its world premiere on November 6th, alongside a full live concert film recorded at Tufnell Park Dome in 2021.

The Rumba Kings 

In ‘The Rumba Kings’, Peruvian director Alan Brain captures how a generation of 1950s musicians from the “artistic metropolis” of Kinshasa and the wider Democratic Republic of the Congo, defied their Belgian colonisers through music. 

By fusing traditional African rhythms with Afro-Cuban sounds, the resulting rumba music, performed by artists like Franco Luambo and Dr Nico, restored the people’s dignity and soundtracked their country’s independence as its popularity spread across the continent.

Karen Dalton: In My Own Time

Folk blues singer-guitarist Karen Dalton was regarded by many as a female Woody Guthrie, and was idolised by artists as diverse as Bob Dylan and Adele. A charismatic performer whose weary voice recalled that of jazz singer Billie Holiday, Dalton was, nonetheless, a reluctant live performer who was averse to the showbiz industry. She would die in 1993 at just 55 years old, having suffered from substance abuse and AIDS-related illnesses for years following the commercial failure of her second and final album, 1971’s ‘In My Own Time’.

This new documentary features Nick Cave among the talking heads, who recounts Dalton’s widespread influence and lasting legacy.