Sure, BAFICI has a music section. And yes, Buenos Aires once hosted a couple of editions of the internationally renowned Barcelona born IN-EDIT festival back in 2009 and 2010. But how the hell is it that this city, with all the musical greats it has dished out, doesn’t have a freakin’ music documentary festival of its own?
I mean, come on. But never fear, this year the wait is over, thanks to the birth of Rock N’ Doc, a festival that begins this Thursday, September 6th with concerts, photo exhibits and, of course, movies, with an ambitious lineup featuring some of the best local and international music docs in recent memory.
The Origins of Rock N’ Doc
Lisandro Illa has been into rock docs most of his life. “I’ve always liked music, mainly rock, punk and alternative,” he explains. “And I think documentaries that focus on music are very special, so the idea of a music festival was always appealing.” The seed for the festival can be found in an event called Proyecciones Fuera de lo Común (which translates into “Out of the Ordinary Screenings”) which used to take place in Centro Cultural Konex several years back and featured movies and live music shows. Proyecciones became a pretty big thing back then and it carved the way for Lisandro to open a distribution company for artsy films titled, appropriately, Fuera de lo Común.
The idea for the festival started to be kicked around by Lisandro and the rest of the Fuera de lo Común team from the very beginning. But it wasn’t until, as fate would have it, a couple of rock documentaries just happened to fall into their laps several years later that they really considered it. Rather than premier them separately, they finally saw their window for going all in on Rock N’ Doc. “Buenos Aires is a city with a pretty intense cultural agenda but there is simply nothing like what we’re doing. People here love music and follow a lot of bands so we believe there is a big audience for this.”
The International Guests
The international program features a strong punk core highlighted by a Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk, produced by Green Day and narrated by Iggy Pop. Other gems include the Rolling Stones produced Olé Olé Olé!: A Trip Across Latin America (which was partially filmed in Argentina), Nico 1988 about the iconic Velvet Underground singer, and Matangui Maya M.I.A and Queer Core: How to Punk a Revolution.
Among the biggest movies arriving at the Rock N’ Doc festival is Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC, whose director, Scott Crawford will be one of the featured invitees. The movie captures the early punk scene in the US capital, “a cultural watershed that predated the alternative music explosion of the 1990s” as its official synopsis reads.
For Scott, genre movie festivals like this are some of the richest in the world. “These are my favorites because they bring the music community together while celebrating the art of filmmaking and the joy of music,” he explains.
Even though music lovers are sure to eat it up, Crawford’s film is a prime example of how music docs can transcend their niche and have universal appeal, a condition most movies in the program are sure to comply with. Salad Days was universally acclaimed by mainstream players such as Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.
“I think Salad Days found a larger audience because the film’s overarching themes of community and the strength in a DIY approach to life are things that many people can relate to—whether you’re a fan of the music or not,” explains Scott.
The Home Team
The national lineup offers three documentaries which feature local cult rock bands. Jessico, una Historia de Rock en Tiempos Convulsos, focuses on Babasónicos, Los Violadores en el Luna Punk, details the reunion of Los Violadores after 30 years and Cien Caminos is the second part of the documentary on Suárez, an independent rock band from the 90s. There’s also Relampago en la Oscuridad, about heavy metal singer Alberto Zamarbide and the punk odyssey Desacato a la Autoridad, Capítulo 2 (Relatos de Punks de Argentina 1983- 1988).
One of the most expected national films, which has garnered a massive following since its premier in 2017 is Cemento, which is a sort of love letter to the rock disco of the same name, one of the most emblematic symbols of underground rock-and- roll in Buenos Aires during the 80s and 90s.
The documentary was directed by Lisandro Carcavallo, an avid fan that managed to experience the last years of the place in the flesh before it closed on December 30, 2004, the same day as the Cromañón tragedy that killed 194 people. Both places, were owned by Omar Chabán, a controversial figure who died while serving a sentence for his involvement in the incident.
Cemento focuses on the cultural relevance of the mythical disco, weaving a discourse about the importance of rock as a manifestation of the political discontent in Argentina. As Carcavallo explains: “Rock in this country was always a tool for complaining and resisting but also about finding meeting points and alliances. No one can deny the importance of rock as a cultural, social and political tool in BA Rock ’82 or other moments of our history, for example.”
BA Rock ’82 refers to a legendary rock festival that took place in the legendary Obras stadiumin 1982, with the recent end of the Malvinas War still fresh and the backdrop of the rise in popularity of local rock bands that unexpectedly resulted from the conflict, once censorship against music sung in english was enforced.
The movie offers never before seen footage of Cemento and interviews with several of its headliners. It has already been screened in BAFICI, the Gaumont, and the National Library, as well as a very special screening in the old place where Cemento used to be in Constitución. For Carcavallo, the need for a festival such as Rock N’ Roc is undeniable: “I think rock and film have always been brothers, and this festival reaffirms that in a moment in which we need to comprehend the importance of rock as a manifestation of our culture.”
More than Films
Like most festivals of its kind, Rock N’ Doc will offer much more than just movie screenings. It will have a section dedicated to music clips and web formats, two photo exhibitions (one dedicated to the aforementioned Salad Days and the other to punk forefathers The Ramones) and a very special screening of a Dracula short film from 1982, scored live by Boom Boom Kid.
Rock & Doc will take place from September 6th through September 12 at Hoyts Cinema in Abasto. For more information about the festival, including schedules and ticket sales, visit the website