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Death, Drugs and Rock n' Roll- "Don't Knock The Rock's" Timely Glimpse into Musicians' Triumphs and Tragedies

Allison Anders and Patty Schemel
Allison Anders and Patty Schemel
Lina Lecaro

There is a segment in the riveting new documentary Hit So Hard- The Life and Near Death Story of Patty Schemel that explores the concept of "Saturn Returns" (the astrogical phenomenon which is said to influence and test a person's life development beginning at 27 years old; the exact age that rock n' roll icons including Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones and --as is intimately recalled in the film by those who were there-- Kurt Cobain and Hole bassist Kristin Pfaff died). Friends feared Schemel might end up another victim of the "27 Club" and talk about it in the film. After all, the Hole drummer not only was a full-blown heroin addict at 27, she was forced to deal with the deaths of two of her best friends, removal from her band's anticipated follow-up record, homelessness, and (maybe most challenging) the intimitable Courtney Love.

She survived and even thrived, telling her story (which ends happily, in fact) in the film. The same obviously can't be said for Amy Winehouse, who was also 27. Winehouse's death this weekend reiterated a sad reality of rock n' roll: Rare talents and tortured souls often go hand in hand. It's a recurring thread in many of the films offered for this year's "Don't Knock The Rock," the 7th annual music-themed film festival created and curated by director Allison Anders and daughter Tiffany Anders, at the Silent Movie Theatre.

Director P. David Ebersole told us Hit So Hard, (which sold out last Thursday night and added a second screening) has been picked up for major theatrical release and even if you're not a Nirvana or Hole fan, you must see it. It's easily one of the most touching, honest, funny, refreshing and simply badass films of its kind. (We've seen a whole lotta rock docs, so we don't say this lightly). It chronicles the meteoric rise of Hole before and after Live Through This and Celebrity Skin, via tour footage and interviews (Love, Eric Erlandson and Melissa Auf de Maur all weigh in), Schemel's relationship with Kurt, Courtney and baby daughter Francis Bean (via intimate, pretty amazing home movie footage), the challenges of female drummers everywhere (interviews with Gina Schock, Debbi Peterson, Roddy Bottum), and her rebellious childhood in Washington, growing up as lesbian punk chick (her mom's interviews nearly steal the movie). The story has a dark, even clich├ęd, arc, but throughout, Schemel's raw and uncensored recollections and enduring humor make even the rough stuff absorbing. Love, looking clownish in a wild multi-colored ensemble and chomping cookies throughout, is highly entertaining, of course.

Michael Des Barres and Dave Markey.
Michael Des Barres and Dave Markey.
Lina Lecaro

Nirvana heads also flocked to DKTR's Saturday night screening of The Year Punk Broke, which chronicles the '91 tour featuring Sonic Youth and the legendary trio just before Nevermind broke. It's more a concert flick than a documentary, but film maker Dave Markey did get some entertaining stuff from the bands when they weren't rocking: back stage antics, amusement park visits, and lots of Thurston Moore playing TV show host, interviewing bands and fans at fests around the world. "There's a fine line between clever and ..." Moore is cut off before one of his last pronouncements in the movie. (We'll say it- "obnoxious.") The Sonic Youth frontman walks this line throughout, so casual music fans will probably want to fast forward through some of his more tedious tirades when the film comes out on DVD September 6th.

Eat Through This.
Eat Through This.
Lina Lecaro

Not surprisingly, DKTR emcee Michael Des Barres said exactly what we were thinking regarding Moore when he interviewed Markey after the screening Saturday. Des Barres has been moderating panels and talks for friend Anders' film festival since its inception, and his frank and fearless style -he'll go there with certain questions others might not-- are always highlights of the fest. The Courtney Love convo after Hit So Hard was priceless, especially when Erlandson declared he didn't do interviews unless he was eating, referencing Love by taking out a bag of cookies and noshing throughout the Q&A.

More films to come in the series include Kevin, about Texas street musician Kevin Gant (who will also be there to perform), Better Than Something: Jay Reatard, Pulp: The Beat is Law: Fanfare for the Common People, Rhino Resurrected: The Incredibly Strange Story of the World's Most Famous Record Store, Family Band: The Cowsill's Story and many more. See the Cinefamily website for full schedule.

Perhaps the most anticipated film of the entire fest is the premiere of Bob & The Monster, covering the tempestuous life of Thelonious Monster, frontman and popular Celebrity Rehab counselor Bob Forrest. Forrest -who has helped many a rocker live sober, even before he was on TV- will be in attendance and play live following the screening. And while drug demons are, not surprisingly, a major theme for many DKTR films, it's important to note that not all stories of addiction end the way Winehouse's did. Stories like Schemel's and Forrest's remind us that for every rock n' roll tragedy, there is a story of survival.

Check out the trailers for Hit So Hard and Bob & the Monster below.


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