Some of the feature film highlights from this year’s Scruffy City Film and Music Festival, April 26 through May 1:
The Smart Studios Story: Screening Wednesday, April 27 at 9 p.m. in Scruffy City Hall. You may not recognize the name, but you’ll surely recognize some of the artists who produced landmark albums in the ugly two-story brick building on East Washington Avenue in Madison, Wis. Nirvana recorded “Nevermind” there; the Smashing Pumpkins laid down their 1991 Caroline Records debut “Gish.” Die Kreuzen and L7 and Soul Asylum and Death Cab for Cutie… the list goes on. The documentary charts the history of the studio, begun in 1983 by well-known musician/producers Butch Vig and Steve Marker, with interviews and commentary from the likes of Billy Corgan and Dave Grohl. Premiering at the South by Southwest film festival, the movie has earned high marks for its capturing of “the grunge and the glory” (per the Wisconsin Cap Times) of 27 remarkable years.
Presenting Princess Shaw: Screening Thursday, April 28 at 9 p.m. at Regal Cinemas Downtown West. Equal parts art project, documentary, and fairy tale, Presenting Princess Shaw is unlike any other film you’re likely to see, anywhere. It tells the story of Samantha Montgomery, aka Princess Shaw, a nursing home caregiver in New Orleans whose prolific YouTube postings — a combination of video-diaries, chronicling her harrowing upbringing, and singer-songwriter performances — caught the attention of Israeli musician Ophir Kutiel, aka Kutiman. Kutiel seeks out Montgomery, makes a documentary about her, and uses her music as part of his own mashup-style mixed media creations. The Miami Herald touts the film for having “about as happy of an ending as anyone could imagine, except this one really happened.”
Born to Be Blue: Screening Friday, April 29 at 9 p.m. at Regal Cinemas Downtown West. Starring Ethan Hawke, BTBB is ostensibly the story of hard-living and mercurial jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. We say “ostensibly” because, as Variety magazine reviewer Andrew Barker puts it, the movie is “semi-factual, semi-fictional… about a character who happens to share a name and a significant number of biographical similarities with Chet Baker, taking the legendary West Coast jazz musician’s life as though it were merely a chord chart from which to launch an improvised set of new melodies.” Thus far available mainly on the festival circuit, Born to Be Blue has drawn particular praise for Hawke’s stellar performance as the man sometimes referenced as “the James Dean of jazz.”
A Song for You: Austin City Limits Story: Screening Sunday, May 1 at 7 p.m. Featuring an appealing mix of behind-the-scenes and performance clips, A Song for You chronicles 40 years of music history as played out (until 2010) on the stage of Studio 6A in the Communications Building of the University of Texas at Austin. Highlights include show producer Terry Lickona’s recollection of first-episode performer Willie Nelson lighting up a toke while watching Roger Miller, as well as interviews with and performances by the likes of Buddy Guy and Leonard Cohen and the Pixies and Dolly Parton.