Critics' Pick

A Band Called Death (NR)

Documentary 96 June 28, 2013
By Brian McManus
By 1975, many acts had walked through the doors of Don Davis's Groovesville Productions offices in Detroit. None of them were quite like Death, a band of three related-by-blood African-American brothers-- David, Dannis, and Bobby Hackney-- who played louder, faster, and weirder than anything anyone in the city that gave birth to Motown had ever seen. They were-- as the New York Times article that more or less announced them to the world more than 30 years after they'd played their last note together put it-- punk before punk was punk. A Band Called Death (Drafthouse Films) traces the brothers' moving, hard-to-believe journey, and is a beautiful tale of life, love, music, and family, of things not working out but also working out just as predicted. Directors Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino piece the story together nicely through interviews with Dannis and Bobby and the extended Hackney family. David, now deceased, is represented through audiotapes and handwritten diaries. He'd always predicted Death wouldn't get the recognition they were due until after he was gone, and A Band Called Death is a worthy vehicle for showing how that recognition came to be. The movie packs quite an emotional and bittersweet wallop along the way, as Dannis and Bobby start to see their brother's vision for Death understood by more and more people the world over. "One day people are going to come looking for this music," David told his brothers long after the group broke up. A Band Called Death spells out-- yells out-- why that is.
Mark Covino, Jeff Howlett Bobby Hackney, Sr., Dannis Hackney, David Hackney, Bobbie Duncan Mark Covino, Jeff Howlett, Scott Mosier, Matthew Perniciaro, Kevin Mann, Jerry Ferrara Drafthouse Films

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