Newport Beach Film Festival 2016’s Music-Related Films: Best of the Best

When song and film collide, it’s the best of both creative worlds for folks who can’t choose just one art form over the other. So ears and eyes, rejoice! This year’s Newport Beach Film Festival music series ranges from nostalgic documentaries about California’s desert-rock scene and the rise of Fat Wreck Chords to an experimental short that gives audiences a peek into the mind of iconic singer/songwriter Daniel Johnston. Features tell the stories of a novice reporter finding himself in the midst of rock’s most historic death and a violinist’s humbling experience as a music instructor in one of Brazil’s roughest neighborhoods. Music-lovers also get a rare opportunity to view contemporary and classic music videos on the big screen. So grab a bucket of popcorn, don’t text during films no matter how much AMC wants you to, and rid yourself of the post-Coachella blues with these great music flicks.

Get ready to overload on Mohawks and liberty spikes with A Fat Wreck, the punk-as-fuck documentary that looks back on the rise of Fat Wreck Chords, the indie label started by NOFX’s Fat Mike and his ex-wife, Erin Burkett. Notable punkers and frequent Orange County visitors such as Good Riddance, the Descendents, Less Than Jake and Against Me! reminisce about their glory days with punk’s most reckless label. Quirky and crass string puppetry (provided by OC’s own Jennie Cotterill from punk-rock girl band Bad Cop/Bad Cop) supplement the first-hand accounts of sex, drugs and punk rock from the very punks that lived to tell the story. At Regency South Coast Village, 1561 W. Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, (714) 557-5701. Fri., 5:45 p.m. $15.

Today’s alternative rock on the radio would basically be as bland as KOST without the entrancing influence of desert rock, that swirl of hard rock, psychedelia, blues, grunge, metal and punk pioneered in the badlands of Palm Desert in the late 1980s and ’90s. Directed by Jason Pine, Desert Age: A Rock and Roll Scene History takes audiences back to the original drug-and-freak-filled shows powered by generators in secluded canyons. The desert-rock scene was the precursor to Burning Man, the origin for Dissention Records, and the early stomping grounds for Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, Yawning Man and Fatso Jetson. Rockers such as Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal—the band forever tied to last November’s gruesome Paris attacks—look back on the dusty grooves that changed alt-rock. At Island Cinema, 999 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, (844) 462-7342. April 27, 7:45 p.m. $15.

Daniel Johnston’s effortless ability to evoke the deepest of emotions with the simplest of lyrics influenced many Gen-X icons (Kurt Cobain, step right up!). In Hi, How Are You Daniel Johnston?, the iconic low-fi singer/songwriter engages in introspective conversations with tape recordings of his 22-year-old self in 1983—when the soon-to-be legend began creating his highly influential debut album, Hi, How Are You. This hallucinogenic short film has Johnston coming to terms with his past love, inner demons and current state of happiness (or lack of it). Gabriel Sunday—who also portrays a younger Daniel Johnston in the film—directed the short, while indie-pop darling Lana Del Rey and rapper Mac Miller executive produced. At the Triangle, 1870 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-4300. Sat., 6 p.m. $15.

On Dec. 8, 1980, ABC news reporter Alan Weiss was admitted to New York’s Roosevelt Hospital with a motorcycle injury. At the same time, chaos reigned in the emergency room as doctors tried to save the life of John Lennon, who had just been shot by Mark David Chapman. Weiss got to a payphone, where he called his producers, who eventually relayed the message to Monday Night Football announcer Howard Cosell, who then delivered the message heard around the world. The Lennon Report dramatizes this incredible-but-true story, one that led to Weiss winning an Emmy for his reporting. Stick around after the film for a Q&A with director Jeremy Profe and cast members. At the Triangle. Sun., 0x000A7:30 p.m. $15. And at Island Cinema. April 28, 8 p.m. $15.

Directed by Sergio Machado, The Violin Teacher takes place in Heliópolis, a favela in São Paulo where a talented violinist is crushed to learn he’s been denied entrance to the city’s most prestigious orchestra. He pushes aside his dreams of becoming a famous violinist and reluctantly becomes a music instructor to disenfranchised children exposed to violent gang warfare in the slums. After many tribulations, the prestige-hungry violinist finally bonds with his students and finds a selfless meaning to his life. Think Freedom Writers meets City of God, but with the added ethereal power of music. Besides the film’s heartwarming sentimental moments, a lively soundtrack with a mash-up of classical compositions and Brazilian funk will have you tempted to get up from your velvet theater seat and shake your hips Carnaval-style—which you can also do at the Latino Spotlight party right after the film. At Edwards Big Newport, 300 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, (844) 462-7342. April 27, 7:45 p.m. $45 (includes party).

For serious junkies, the art of the music video is appreciated as fondly as the song it seeks to supplement. Take advantage of the opportunity to witness this cinematic art form at the Music Video Showcase on the final night of the festival. Where else in Orange County will you be able to see one of David Bowie’s last visual masterpieces (his video for “Blackstar”) on the silver screen? A collection of 18 modern and original videos are scheduled to play from 7:45 to 9 p.m.—more music videos than MTV has played in years! At the Triangle. April 28, 7:45 p.m. $15.

For complete schedule and ticket information, visit

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