If you want something great to watch during lockdown, the RNZ Music have got you covered. Here’s a bunch of top-notch music documentaries we’ve handpicked for your viewing pleasure.
1. Poi-E: The Story of Our Song (YouTube Movies)
A beautiful and endearing love letter to one of Aotearoa’s most beloved songs, ‘Poi E’. Director Tearepa Kahi captures the struggle and strength of the song’s creators Dalvanius Prime and Patea Maori Club. It will have you crying tears of joy and sadness. –Yadana Saw
2. What Happened Miss Simone? (Netflix)
A very honest portrayal of Nina Simone’s rise as a singer and activist. It traces her life from her childhood as a piano prodigy, through hear years battling with physical and mental health, to her late return to glory –Charlotte Ryan
3. Swagger of Thieves (Vimeo On Demand)
A warts-and-all close-up of 90s Wellington band Head Like A Hole (HLAH), a band plagued with bad luck, poor decisions, internal conflict, and drug addictions.
The film begins in 2008 with the band’s reformation, and ends in 2012 when they’re nominated for a NZ Music Award for their 2011 album Blood Will Out. There are train-wrecks on stage, friction off stage, and inebriated fans who just want to be near them. –Kirsten Johnstone
- Read or listen to Kirsten Johnstone’s interview with filmmaker Julien Boshier
- Click here to rent the film for $5.49 (US)
4. Ru Ana Te Whenua: Alien Weaponry Shake Europe (RNZ)
When New Zealand band Alien Weaponry found out they’d be playing the world’s biggest metal music festival, the three teenagers “lost their shit”.
Flash forward nine months and brothers Henry and Lewis de Jong and friend Ethan Trembath are onstage at Germany’s Wacken Open Air festival, with thousands of metal fans shouting their Māori lyrics and screaming for more.
RNZ Music followed Alien Weaponry's journey as they made their way across Europe, playing small gigs and giant festivals to legions of loyal fans. –Alice Murray
5. Fade to Black (Tidal)
I watched this doco about the making of Jay Z’s Black Album in 2004, and certain scenes burned themselves into my brain: particularly Mike D (of The Beastie Boys) and Rick Rubin marvelling at the way Jay Z comes up with rhymes off the top of his head, and Timbaland pitching beats to Jay in the studio (a scene which also blessed us with these gifs).
Then the film vanished, until last year when it was made available to stream on Tidal. If you have a subscription, get amongst! –Tony Stamp
6. NZ On Screen: TVNZ’s music back-catalogue
The NZ on Screen website is an amazing archive of New Zealand’s film and television history. I love to get lost in it for hours.
My favourite recent discoveries are all the great interviews from 70s/80s music TV show, Radio With Pictures. There are interviews with incredible artists including David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Joni Mitchell, Johnny Cash, Lou Reed and BB King, who all look really young, and often very relaxed. –Charlotte Ryan
7. Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives (Netflix)
Veteran record producer Clive Davis was once described as “the greatest record man of all time”, and as you watch this film, you will hardly believe how instrumental (haha) Clive Davis' ears have been in picking out the music we've come to love over the past 50 years.
From Janis Joplin to Santana, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Outkast, Clive Davis was the man behind them all. –Yadana Saw
8. The Chills: The Triumph and Tragedy of Martin Phillipps (Google Play)
Martin Phillipps and his band The Chills came very close to international fame during the 1980s. Instead, after the band's career faltered, Phillipps descended into debt, addiction and depression in his hometown of Dunedin.
This quirky and moving documentary charts the frontman’s turbulent life, and looks back on The Chills’ catalogue of hits.
9. Amy (Netflix)
If you thought you knew everything about the life and tragic death of 27-year-old British singer Amy Winehouse, think again. This documentary goes deep, and although harrowing, it’s also mesmerising. And it gets 95% on film review site Rotten Tomatoes. Highly recommended. –Alice Murray
10. Beware of Mr Baker (YouTube)
Meet Ginger Baker, a complete and utter maniac. He played drums for ‘60s London rockers Cream, who’s members included Eric Clapton, and he’s also credited alongside Fela Kuti, for bringing Afrobeat to the world. –Yadana Saw
11. NZ International Film Festival music documentaries
Who knew you could rent New Zealand films online at NZIFF’s website? They’ve got a bunch of great Kiwi music docos including:
- Gone With The Weird
- Philip Dadson: Sonics From Scratch
- Rumble & Bang
- Sheen of Gold