A Band Called Death (2013)
Critic Consensus: A Band Called Death is not only a fascinating portrait of a pioneering rock group, but also a tribute to family ties and perseverance in the face of hardship.
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Critic Reviews for A Band Called Death
An especially pointed variation on one of music's most oft-told tales: A band formed ahead of its time sits in muffled obscurity while others reap the harvest of what it first planted.
Fortunately, Bobby and Dannis, the surviving brothers, prove genial company.
If the brothers seem a little drunk on their own myth, they're also genuinely humbled by the band's rediscovery and warmed by the fact that their kids have carried on the family tradition.
A Band Called Death shines the light on a previously unexplored corner of musical history and does it in an accessible, straightforward manner.
Their story can feel almost too ready-made for the telling, but it's well worth a listen.
Audience Reviews for A Band Called Death
Or A Film Called Death...
How appropriate for this film about the near-forgotten punk rock band, Death, that the entire film is haunted by death. It was something I wasn't really expecting. I was expecting a pretty straight forward music documentary about a band that time nearly forgot, like Searching for Sugarman or Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, but what I got out of a Band Called Death is a movie about death and spirituality. And the result is a film that is better than either of the other films mentioned.
It starts off like Big Star, a film about a band that's future looked incredibly promising, but how its success was tragically short-lived. The third act is similar to Searching for Sugarman, a film about how the songs of this band resurfaced years after their inception. But what sets this film apart is the middle section about the death of one of the founding members of the band, who was also the brother to the other two members.
It becomes this tragic story about how when dreams die, it slowly kills a part of a person. And how despair can only exist when hope is alive. The film spends a lot of time on pondering these issues through the story of David, and I found myself incredibly moved by this story. It really gives the film an edge that typical music documentaries don't have.
If you're a fan of 70s rock, you need to see this film, and even if you're not, do yourself a favor and see this movie. Even if you have to get through the first 30 minutes (which I love, but you may not), the middle section of the film is emotionally powerful.
Suffers from the fact that SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN came out so recently prior, but that doesn't really dampen how great this doc is as well. A touching story told in a very intimate, personal fashion. Solid doc, and great music!
Fine. "A Band Called Death" isn't anything new. (See: last year's terrific "Searching for Sugar Man", the near-perfect "Anvil! The Story of Anvil"; others.) But what it lacks in originality it makes up for in spirit. Real death hovers over "A Band Called Death", that of guitarist David Hackney, who pioneered the punk band Death with his brothers Bobby and Dannis after seeing an Alice Cooper show in the early '70s.
David was the trio's real fighter for authenticity. Much of the beginning of the movie is about how tough a sell it was to record labels for a band to be billed as "Death", something with the internet and shit nowadays is almost inconceivable that a group named after the negative end of mortality would ever run into that sort of problem. Still David refused to change the name, and his brothers stuck by him, before the other two siblings turned to recording reggae, R&B and even Christian music under various aliases. David died of lung cancer in 2000 after a serious bout with alcoholism. One of his brothers called him a "genius type", and that ultimately the demons got to him.
The best parts of "A Band Called Death" are those in which Bobby and Dannis, in rediscovering years later David's passions -- through anger, family and tears -- come to better understand their brother as a person through his decisions as an artist, as more than someone they simply felt the need to stand alongside out of commitment. "A Band Called Death" is both heartbreaking and -warming because it stands alongside him, too. It's almost fitting that his unfortunate demise occasionally robs the movie from being able to go deeper, grander and darker than death.
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