‘A Band Called Death’ rocks the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Starting this weekend at the TIFF Bell Lightbox is the new music documentary that unearths one of the most influential bands that almost nobody has ever heard of, “A Band Called Death”. The documentary boats executive producers Scott Mosier (friend and producer of Kevin Smith’s films) and Entourage’s Jerry Ferrara, which just goes to prove the vast and different influence their music has had. A band becoming a hit 30 years after recording your demo tape is a compelling and unique story, and one that has never been told on screen this way before.
A Band Called Death
Directed by Jeff Howlett, Mark Covino
Before Bad Brains, the Sex Pistols or even the Ramones, there was Death. Formed in the early 1970s by three teenage brothers from Detroit, Death is credited as being the first black punk band, and the Hackney brothers, David, Bobby, and Dannis, are now considered pioneers in their field. But it wasn’t until recently, when a dusty 1974 demo tape made its way out of Bobby’s attic nearly thirty years after Death’s emergence, that anyone outside a small group of punk enthusiasts had even heard of them. Equal parts electrifying rockumentary and epic family chronicle, the story of Death is one of brotherly love and fierce, divinely inspired expression.
A Band Called Death is a hard rocking documentary filled with great music and an even better story. The tale of the Hackney Brothers is a surreal set of events which turned the now deceased David into a bit of a fortune teller. After the initial non-responsive reactions the band received it was David who negotiated for the original masters and kept them tucked away, determined the world would one day want to hear this music. Those words were prophetic as the music is brilliant and heavily influential even today. As we follow the remaining brothers around their old neighborhood and meet old family friends it becomes obvious the connection with David still runs deep after all these years as emotions frequently bubble to the surface.
Howlett and Covino use a mixture of old photos, interviews, rough video footage and of course the music to provide a hearty romp that is engaging from the very start. The story of how the music finally came to light is fascinating and has become the stuff of legends. But the real heart of the film is the brothers themselves and their tales of perseverance and loss. The group sprung from Bobby’s children, named Rough Francis in tribute to their late uncle David as that was a moniker of his, and the emotional performance for their father is a very touching and moving scene that encapsulates what the film is all about, family. In a way, the film is also very much about the legacy of Death and the band it spawned, the second generation of Hackneys playing punk and rock music.
One of the most unknown and unconventional tales of success in the music industry, A Band Called Death is a welcome surprise and a very accomplished piece of filmmaking. Expect to be loading your IPod with Death songs after this one. A Band Called Death is one of the best music documentaries of the year, get out to the TIFF Bell Lightbox and experience it.
Till Next Time
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