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Why the hottest films are now music documentaries

Next month London will see the movie premiere of Here to be Heard: The Story of the Slits, a feminist punk band who trailblazed their way from the 70s into the 80s but probably never imagined they would become the subject of a 21st-century music documentary. Music fans may also take up the option to see films about cult Australian outfit the Go-Betweens, British Sri Lankan rapper MIA, rap entrepreneur Dr Dre or popstar Justin Timberlake. Boosted by multiple sources of funding and distribution, music documentaries are enjoying a golden age and, as the 68th edition of the Berlin International Film Festival drew to a close, this year’s slate proved they are a rapidly expanding niche.

Here to be Heard: The Story of the Slits

The festival hosted documentaries across many musical genres: sold-out screenings of British director Steve Loveridge’s Matangi/Maya/MIA, a special gala slot for Murray Cumming’s Songwriter (reviewed, right), about his Grammy award-winning cousin Ed Sheeran, Mirroring Michael Jackson, and the Slits documentary.

The US movie site Deadline reported from the festival that buyers and sellers such as the UK-based Moviehouse Entertainment, who are handling sales for The Go-Betweens: Right Here and the Slits film, have shown increased interest in the “rock doc” genre, following the box-office success in 2015 of Asif Kapadia’s Amy and Brett Morgen’s Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.

The shrewd, rollicking and long-awaited MIA film, a Berlinale highlight, was edited down from more than 700 hours of intimate footage, much of it shot by the artist herself. However, MIA said, “It’s not the film that I would have made” when pressed on the matter during a post-screening

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