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This year, starting from the opening night, HIFF’s programme includes an exceptionally wide selection of great music-themed films. In September, Pulp, Nick Cave, and Jimi Hendrix and a whole bunch of other giants of the music world take on the big screens.

Belle & Sebastian lead singer Stuart Murdoch’s directional debut GOD HELP THE GIRL is a delight both for the ears and the eyes. Emily Browning, Olly Alexander and Hannah Murray play three rootless youth who start a band. The coming-of-age-story depicts the brief time during which they figure out what they want to do, while their dreams have yet materialize and all options are seemingly open.



Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard paint a hypnotic portrait of the apocalyptic rock preacher Nick Cave. Their documentary, 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH, is an interesting mix of fact and fiction. Cave himself has contributed to the screenplay, which offers a rare peak inside the artist’s mind. The spectator is invited, for example, to an imaginary therapy session and dreamlike car rides during which the musician’s old friends appear like ghosts.


JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE tells the story of Jimi Hendrix during a time when he was not yet the renowned guitar phenomenon and rock god he later became. The film takes place in 1966–67, when Hendrix, played by André Benjamin from Outkast, was still a backing guitarist. John Ridley, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for 12 Years a Slave, has directed a boldly exceptional portrait. Unlike in the majority of films in this genre, the greatest moments of the protagonist have been left out, as they happen in between the scenes or after the time period depicted in the film.



MONSTERMAN is the long-awaited documentary about Mr. Lordi, who became a national hero in Finland after his band won the Eurovision Song Contest. The documentary, directed by Antti Haase,  is also a film about the harshness of the music business. It includes unseen footage of Lordi, reaching from the glorious moments of nationwide popularity, eventually transforming into painstaking labour as the band works on a new record. The documentary will premiere in Finnish cinemas 26 September.



The delightful Shep Gordon is a man of many talents. Gordon got entangled in the music business by accident, became the legendary manager of Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd and Blondie, brought the celebrity chef phenomena into its present glory, and hang with all the biggest celebrities, including the Dalai Lama. SUPERMENSCH: THE LEGEND OF SHEP GORDON is Mike Myers’ debut as a director.



THE PUNK SINGER is a biopic about the smashing punk singer Kathleen Hanna, who rose to fame as the front figure of the band Bikini Kill and the feminist riot grrrl-movement. The document takes the viewer back in time through the energetic 90s and explain what made the feminist icon stopeed shouting in 2005.



NARCO CULTURA depicts drug trade in Mexico and its influence on everyday life and culture. The documentary follows narco corrido musicians and producers who make a fat paycheck on both sides of the US border with music glorifying the drug cartels. At the same time, the director Shaul Schwarz follows a police officer fighting drug related crime. The hardworking officer’s day is is full of fear and desperation as the drug gangs kill the unit’s employees one after another, even though they hardly ever catch any big fish. Looking at the day-to-day life of the officer, it is evident that the tales of the narco corrido musicians are child’s play compared to the bloodstained reality.



FLOW, directed by Danish Fenar Ahmad, is the story of Michael who lives in the suburbs and to whom friends and music mean everything. The relationship with his friends is put to a test when Michael becomes a ghost composer for a famous rapper.



Previously announced music films at HIFF
Helsinki International Film Festival opens with the electrifying WHIPLASH by young screenwriter-director talent Damien Chazelle. The debuting director took Sundance Film Festival by storm, winning both the Grand Jury Prize (dramatic) and the Audience Award. Whiplash is a story that defies expectations of the music film genre. The film, directed more like an action film or a thriller movie, is an intensive drama about the price of reckless ambition. Miles Teller plays a talented and passionate drummer, who is accepted to a prime American jazz conservatory. J. K. Simmons plays his bandleader, who also happens to be the strictest teacher at the school – a true perfectionist who demands nothing less than blood, sweat and tears from his star apprentice. The film, distributed by Sony Pictures Finland, hits Finnish theatres 23 January 2015.




PULP: AFILM ABOUT LIFE, DEATH & SUPERMARKETS. In this nostalgic documentary, Pulp and their front man Jarvis Cocker return to their hometown Sheffield to give their last concert as a band. Florian Habicht’s look behind the scenes at the concert is also a tribute to Pulp fans, who get to share their life stories and memories of the band. Director Habicht, producer Alex Boden and Pulp drummer Nick Banks will be present at the opening day screening. Banks will also throw a rare DJ gig at the festival’s opening club at LeBonk.

One of the top films in the music series is Lenny Abrahamson’s FRANK. It is a peculiar drama comedy about a young wannabe musician, who joins a band that plays experimental music. The band is lead by the mystical and eccentric Frank, who wears an insanely big paper mask day and night. The face of Michael Fassbender, who plays Frank, is shown very sparsely in the film, but the actor still manages to make his character highly intriguing. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Frank’s aggressive band mate.



In Morgan Neville’s 20 FEET FROM STARDOM, backup vocalists, the foot soldiers of the music world, get a rare chance to shine. World-renowned musicians such as Mick JaggerStevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen praise their backup singers to the skies, but is the appreciation from colleagues of any comfort, if one’s biggest dream is to build a solo career and yet the audience is always screaming someone else’s name?


MUSCLE SHOALS tells the story of a small town and its big sound. Since the 1950s, Fame studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, has hosted the biggest names in soul and rock. Such legendary songs as Aretha Franklin’s Respect, The Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama have all been recorded in the world-famous studio. Greg Camalier’s documentary gives voice to the studio’s producer Rick Hall as well as to some of the biggest names in the music industry, who share their memories of the mythical studio and its influence on the music world.