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Don't knock it: Rock is king here

This three-day festival includes documentaries on Gram Parsons and the Runaways as well as some pelvis-twitching classics.

August 08, 2004|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

Indie film writer-director Allison Anders came up with the idea for a "Don't Knock the Rock Film and Musical Festival" while teaching a course on rock movies at UC Santa Barbara a few years back.

"I saw how my students responded to my movies," says Anders, whose own films -- including "Border Radio," "Grace of My Heart" and "Sugar Town" -- have dealt with rock music.

"I showed them 'Loving You,' 'Performance,' 'Two-Lane Blacktop,' " says Anders, who will teach the course again this fall. "Most of them they had never seen. They don't show up on TV anymore. That's the sad thing. When I was a young mother, the TV we used to have in Southern California, I would argue, was much better because you could watch movies all night long and they played all of these American International movies, Elvis movies, teenage jeopardy movies and rock 'n' roll movies."

The first festival last year, Anders reports, was a great success, "which is kind of amazing. We were so new, but we got the word out a little bit.... It all worked out really well. We were incredibly stressed and underfunded, but we did it."

The second annual festival kicks off Thursday and continues through Aug. 15, with movies screening at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood and live musical performances at Club Lingerie, the El Rey and the Henry Fonda Theater. Actor-singer Michael Des Barres will return as the master of ceremonies for the events.

The opening-night gala will mark the West Coast premiere of the documentary "Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel"; the closing- night program features another documentary, "Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways," which focuses on the '70s teenage girl rockers.

Performers appearing during the three-day event include John Doe, PJ Harvey, Ape of Shape and Dead Moon.

The films in the festival are an eclectic mixture culled from the past 50 years of the rock movie genre. Among the highlights: the early Elvis Presley classics "Loving You" and "Jailhouse Rock," "Coal Miner's Daughter," "The Harder They Come," "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," "School of Rock" and "Zachariah."

Taking stock of last year's festival, Anders realized it was "ridiculously white. We did have 'My Dinner With Jimi,' so Jimi Hendrix made it into the first one, but I said [to myself], 'This has got to stop.' So we are branching out. I couldn't bear not to show the brothers' influence."

Last year's festival, she adds, also omitted films from the 1950s. "But this year being the 50th anniversary, I won't say of rock 'n' roll but will say of Elvis' recording of 'That's All Right Mama,' we had to honor the King at lunch. They are really good Elvis films, especially in the case of 'Loving You.' You really see some really fine acting."

One problem Anders encountered in programming both festivals was obtaining prints of the movies.

"Rock films have never been highbrow culture," she explains. "Rock is treated as dispensable, and I think it's the same for the films themselves. We are very concerned about it. There are some rock classics that there are no prints of, so we want to restore these movies."

This year's festival, says Anders, "takes us through a journey of American experience and the influence, of course, of England on the American experience -- as well as us on them. Next year we will have a bit more international rock movies, which will really be fun."


The Second Annual Don't Knock the Rock Film and Music Festival

Where: ArcLight Hollywood, 6360 Sunset Blvd., Club Lingerie, 6507 Sunset Blvd.; the El Rey, 5515 Wilshire Blvd; the Henry Fonda Theatre, 6126 Hollywood Blvd.

When: Thursday to Aug. 15 at various times

Price: $500 for all access; $100 for all music shows and four movie screeners; $11 for each film ($9 for ArcLight members)

Contact: For schedule information go to For the passes mentioned above contact; movie tickets are at or the theater box office; music tickets can be purchased at

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