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Sound Unseen Just Dropped Its 2023 Schedule and Here’s What I Want to See

The annual Film + Music Festival offers up a new doc about a much-loved '80s star, some classic music-centered films, and one movie I thought was banned for IP reasons.

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Cyndi Lauper (with Capt. Lou Albano); Vera Drew in ‘The People’s Joker’

Sound Unseen season is fast upon us, and that may just be the answer to all your problems.

Let’s say you have a friend who likes music. And you have another friend who likes movies. Because of the vast chasm between their interests, you can never figure out what all three of you can do together. Your friendships suffer. You all spend more time alone, often on social media. One of your friends becomes obsessed with restoring the gold standard. The other is now convinced that modern art is degenerate and we need to return to classical ideas of beauty. It's getting dark.

Can you see how something called the “Sound Unseen Film + Music Festival” will immediately just fix your life, or do I have to spell it out for you?

Now in its 24th year, Sound Unseen’s annual film fest officially announced its lineup today. This year, the festival will run from November 8-12, and screenings will take place at the Parkway, the Trylon, Bryant Lake Bowl, and the Main. (There will also be music events, as yet unannounced at the Green Room and Uptown VFW.) You can see the full lineup here, but please allow me to run down some of the high points for you. 

The opening night movie is Let the Canary Sing, about the pretty much universally adored Cyndi Lauper. (Since I would argue that “Nothing Compares 2 U” isn’t exactly a cover, Cyndi’s “When You Were Mine” is neck and neck with Chaka Khan’s “I Feel for You” as the all-time greatest cover of a Prince song.) 

The closing night film is Peter Doherty: Stranger in My Own Skin, a look at the bloke from the (terrifically named) Libertines and (stupidly named) Babyshambles whose tabloid-trailed life threatened to overshadow his music. The fest’s “centerpiece film” is Art Dealers, a concert flick by and about Adam Weiner of Low Cut Connie, the rock ‘n’ roll revivalists (not unjustly) adored by The Current (who you will not be surprised to learn are sponsoring that screening). 

As often with Sound Unseen, you’ll be most excited by the movies that concern the musicians that most excite you. (That’s not exactly a tautology, is it?) In my case, that means Cypher, a doc about the ingenious Philly rapper Tierra Whack and Louder Than You Think: A Lo-Fi History of Gary Young and Pavement. I have also heard great things about the archival footage gathered for We Are Fugazi From Washington D.C., the title of which seems pretty self-explanatory. Maybe you care more about Red Kross or Earth than I do? Well, there are movies for you too, my hypothetical friend.

But Sound Unseen isn’t just documentaries. This year there are anniversary screenings of Velvet Goldmine and Trainspotting, and I’m particularly excited to hear what Katie Condon does with Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis when she performs her own original score for Walther Ruttman’s 1927 silent classic.

And the big programming coup this year is Vera Drew’s trans superhero parody, The People’s Joker, which I’d thought DC had permanently banished into the Phantom Zone. A hit at TIFF, the film was immediately yanked after its first screening due to rights issues. Maria Bamford is Lorne Michaels! Tim Heidecker is Perry White! Batman is an abusive, closeted right-winger! All the villains are standup comics!

Am I just listing stuff here? Possibly! Who are you to judge me? Anyway, I’m done now and my main point is that I’m pretty excited about the lineup. Also, Racket is sponsoring the festival this year, so you might just see one of us at a screening or two. Say hi. But not during the movie, because that's rude and I will scold you.

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