From Sunday 2 December, NITV launches a season of music documentaries and movies that represent some of the most important and vital films of the genres.
Revisit some classics or dive into music and stories you have yet to discover with this painstakingly curated celebration of artists from an extremely diverse array of backgrounds and an even more diverse collection of musical genres and styles...
Westwind: Djalu’s Legacy
The season begins with the unmissable Australian documentary Westwind: Djalu’s Legacy, the powerful story of yidaki (didgeridoo) master and spiritual leader Djalu Gurruwiwi and his plight to pass on the songlines to the next generation in a rapidly changing world.
Djalu’s yidaki carries the sound of the Bärra – the West Winds – the spiritual sound of life. His mastery of the instrument and the ancient music is just a small part of what the documentary seeks to highlight and preserve. This music and its stories represent a direct link to thousands of years of human experience, knowledge, spirituality and history.
The weight and enormity of the challenge of understanding, preserving and teaching this culture through its traditional music is examined from many perspectives. The documentary explores not just the personal history of Djalu and the music and stories, but the challenges of preservation – family pressure to fill these large footsteps, dealing with well-intentioned famous western musicians who want to contribute to opening the music up to a larger audience, Djalu dealing with his own mortality and the knowledge of what will be lost with him.
Westwind: Djalu’s Legacy is the perfect introduction to NITV’s Music Season.
Sunday 2 December at 8:30pm on NITV
Using research for the Broadway musical Fela! as a backdrop is an interesting twist on this documentary which looks at the life of Nigerian afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti through a modern lens. The history of Fela and his complicated journey through music and political activism is told side by side with the challenges of presenting his story through the tropes of a Broadway musical. It gives the film an angle which only heightens the intense, chaotic times Fela navigated politically, musically and personally.
Sunday 2 December at 10:00pm on NITV
Monochrome: Black, White and Blue
Spread over three episodes, Jon Brewer in this documentary series shows the same care and respect for the history of blues music in America as he did with his legendary BB King documentaries. He marries startling imagery and expert interviews with archival performances to fill in the gaps about the music itself, its origins and the impact it had and continues to have on popular music today.
Mondays from 3 to 17 December at 7:30pm on NITV
Buena Vista Social Club
German auteur Wim Wenders’ 1999 film Buena Vista Social Club opened the world’s eyes to Cuban music and presented a seldom seen view into Cuba at that time. The cinematic beauty of the country washes over the formation of the band the Buena Vista Social Club and their dedication to the traditions of Cuban music instead of adapting to a modern style.
Monday 3 December at 8:30pm on NITV
Sammy Davis Jr: I’ve Gotta Be Me
Sammy Davis Jr’s life revolved around confronting expectations and negative stereotypes as a black/Puerto Rican/Jewish American entertainer. “When I move into a neighbourhood, I wipe it out!” he famously joked. His self-destructiveness fuelled by a feeling that he never fit in troubled the singer throughout his days, and belied the massive success he achieved as an eventual member of the Rat Pack, the pinnacle of 1950s celebrity.
Sunday 9 December at 8:30pm on NITV
Mr Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown
As if the music of James Brown wasn’t enough to entice you into Mr Dynamite (and the restored archival musical performances featured are incredible), the narrative of Brown’s life, the duality of his personality, the legendary meanness combined with the sentimental songman, the party tunes, the hard living, the prison stint, the legacy of his music, the visceral, scathing wit, the politically charged times, bringing soul music to the mainstream, setting a new course for the future of popular music... do you really need further convincing that this doco about Soul Brother Number 1 is a must-see?
Sunday 9 December at 10:20pm on NITV
Ella Havelka made history as the first indigenous woman to be invited into the Australian Ballet, a feat she achieved as recently as 2012 following four years with the Bangarra Dance Theatre. More than just a story of inspiration and aspiration – although it is certainly that – the documentary focuses on the value of family and community and the many people that helped this remarkable young Wiradjuri woman achieve this groundbreaking role.
Monday 10 December at 8:30pm on NITV
French journalist Alex Jordanov explores the making of hip-hop artists as global brands, through conversations with visionaries like Grandmaster Caz and Melle Mel, on to the elder statesmen who brought the music to the mainstream - Ice T, Chuck D, and younger modern rappers like Young Thug. The music serves as a product of the music business in this documentary, which highlights the capitalist leanings of modern hip-hop and how they developed from their humble beginnings as music for and by oppressed youth.
Sunday 16 December at 8:30pm on NITV
Lil Wayne’s life is an open book as revealed in his lyrics, although instead of deciphering the cryptic madness, take a shortcut to the real Wayne via this highly acclaimed documentary. Starting with our hero rapping in a hotel room in Amsterdam (“Why Amsterdam?” asks the off-camera filmmaker. “Because weed is legal here,” comes Wayne’s manager’s reply), we’re immediately in Wayne’s world. The interviews are interesting and funny but the fly-on-the-wall footage is mind-blowing.
Sunday 16 December at 10:30pm on NITV
Breakdancing was the worldwide introduction to hip-hop music in the 1980s. Rap music may be the dominant popular culture force on the planet now, but originally it was background music for the real event – breakdancing. Planet B-Boy uses the arc of the history of breakdancing from its first appearance in a mainstream movie (Flashdance in 1983, if you can believe it) to report on the 2005 Battle of the Year.
Monday 17 December at 8:30pm on NITV
BB King: On the Road
There was such an outpouring of love and stories following the death of one of the giants of blues, there were enough anecdotes from King’s family, friends and bandmates to fill a second feature-length documentary from filmmaker Jon Brewer. Following on from his critically acclaimed film BB King: The Life of Riley it’s easy to see why there was so much material – King performed over 18,000 shows in his lifetime, sometimes up to 300 a year. Striking, vibrant cinematography matches the quality of the talking heads.
Sunday 23 December at 8:30pm on NITV
Made in America
Ron Howard’s unlikely documentary tracking the development and success of Jay Z’s Made in America festival makes for fascinating viewing as the artist elevates his personal brand to a symbol of inspiration and hope. Cultural and racial barriers are intentionally broken down with the diverse curation of the events – the world’s biggest rock and roll bands, electronic artists and rappers are on show.
Sunday 23 December at 10:30pm on NITV
South African artist Miriam Makeba was responsible for bringing the modern sounds of Africa to the rest of the world. She created a completely new style of popular music with its roots based in tradition but embracing contemporary culture – and it made her a superstar. Political activism in her music saw her exiled from her home country, but it didn’t stop her performing and educating the world on the plight of her people and apartheid. Tracking 50 years of her life, this documentary goes a long way to pay the respect due to this unique, visionary performer.
Sunday 30 December at 8:30pm on NITV
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World
Genuine rock and roll icons don’t come much more legitimate than Link Wray and Jimmy Hendrix, the former helping to invent the genre and the latter turning it on its head. Both also shared heritage as Native Americans, but their lineage was rarely discussed for fear of prejudice and racism. Finally with this documentary a light is shone on the many Native American musicians and performers who played a massive and overlooked role in American popular music.
Sunday 30 December at 10:10pm on NITV
The first biographical portrayal of Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin starting Def Jam Records and "inventing" hip-hop has a bit of fun with the truth. Despite many well-documented historical inaccuracies (most hilariously/disturbingly Blair Underwood as Simmons in a fictional relationship with Sheila E) the film is an absolute schlock classic. Footage of Run DMC, The Fat Boys, Kurtis Blow, Beastie Boys, Sheila E et. al. make it unmissable.
Monday 31 December at 7:30pm on NITV
Prince’s debut big budget movie is two things. Firstly, it’s a cheesy 80s teen film which hamfistedly addresses very serious social problems while telling a fictionalised version of Prince getting his band together. Secondly, it’s a document of Prince and The Revolution playing live in the club First Avenue where the real Prince started his career, and it’s this incredible live footage of our hero playing the world’s greatest entertainer that saw him become exactly that.
Monday 31 December at 9:05pm on NITV
We’re Still Here: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited
Johnny Cash’s 1964 album Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian was a watershed moment in country music. Political and controversial, it preceded the larger conversation about to occur in America and the civil rights movement in general. Revisiting the album for its 50th birthday, modern day musicians discuss the album’s importance and perform its music.
Sunday 6 January at 8:30pm and Monday 7 January at 7:30pm on NITV
Biggie and Tupac
Nick Broomfield’s controversial 2002 documentary on the murders of the two biggest stars of hip-hop in the 90s is a snapshot into the confusion and outrage at the time over the ridiculous scenario that these two unparalleled artists were gone and no one was being held responsible. It’s more timely than ever, with investigations into the mystery continuing in 2018 with the biographical series Unsolved and the "confessions" from Keefe D about his involvement in the murder of Tupac to the program’s producers.
Sunday 6 January at 10:10pm on NITV
Breaking a Monster
Breaking a Monster is your typical cinéma vérité documentary of a band from Brooklyn cracking the big time and playing with their heroes with a couple of exceptions. Unlocking The Truth are three African American kids all in the 7th grade, playing heavy metal, a musical genre dominated by white folks. From busking in Times Square to being invited to play with Metallica, it’s impossible to watch without become Unlocking The Truth’s biggest fan.
Monday 7 January at 7:30pm on NITV
Living Black profiles
To conclude its Music Season, NITV revisits profile stories from Living Black on Dan Sultan, Jessica Mauboy, Stevie Salas and the story of Warren H Williams and Dani Young’s journey to Nashville, Tennessee to record the landmark album Desert Water.
January on NITV