Saturday, March 10, 2007


Family documentary of the week:

Too young to rock & roll? Not on your life!

I like films because some of them, the good ones, can make you think. They can make you look at things in ways you never have before. They can inspire you. They can provoke you. They can even amuse you. Yes, movies can amuse you, but documentaries can amaze you.

“But Frank, I don’t like documentaries. Documentaries are booooooring. Documentaries are for intellectual snobs. I don’t want to learn anything new. I just want to be entertained.” I get this a lot whenever I talk about documentaries. “I just don’t ‘do’ documentaries.” The thing is, you probably watch them all the time and don’t realize it.

If you ever watch any TV episodes of “Nova”, those are documentaries. If you ever watch anything on the Discovery Channel, or Meerkat Manor, or even a news show, those are documentaries. Those are real. But not reality shows! There's nothing at all real about those.

A few years ago, Richard Linklater made a film called School of Rock, starring Jack Black. Linklater has made some movies that I’ve featured in the past, such as A Scanner Darkly, Before Sunrise, and Before Sunset. In “School of Rock”, Jack Black plays a man pretending to be a substitute teacher who comes into a school and teaches his young students how to be rock stars. It was hilarious! This is not that movie!

Jack Black’s character in “School of Rock” was based on a real-life guy, Paul Green, of Philadelphia. ROCK SCHOOL, this week’s movie, is about the real Paul Green and the after-school program he runs. His clients range from age 9 to 17 years. These are our future rockers. Wait, what am I saying – these are our present day rockers!

Paul Green is a self-proclaimed natural-born teacher. He can teach anybody anything. He can teach you how to take a punch. What he does teach, though, is the ABC’s of rockin’ and rollin’. How to play your axe, how to turn your amp up to 10 (11 if you got it), how to sing, how to look, etc… Basically how to get into the right mindset to rock, because if you’re in that zone you can rock the audience’s brains out. This documentary, however, does not make Paul Green a hero. He is often pretty obnoxious, and he's not afraid to let people know it.

He’s often bad-tempered. He screams at the kids, he insults them, swears at them, and demeans them. It’s hard to agree with his methods – but it’s also hard to argue with the results. To see how much these kids accomplish in a relatively short time is both inspiring and amazing. From the jaw dropping opening sequence to the climactic music festival in Germany. You have to keep reminding yourself that these are real kids (not actors) and that they are really playing their music. The interviews with Paul Green and the kids are very candid and telling, and you get a real sense that you are peeking into the internal machine of the process behind the scenes. It's very easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm that both Paul and the kids exude.

ROCK SCHOOL is the kind of film that, unfortunately, you normally don't get to hear about (especially where I live in suburbia). It relies on underground word-of mouth from someone that may have heard about it either on college campus or from someone who follows Sundance or Cannes or one of the other film festivals, or perhaps seen a trailer (as I did) while watching another movie on DVD. It's a shame that so moving and entertaining a film isn't given more of a chance to be seen, but don't get me started on that.

I think this is a film that may really inspire young children who may have an interest in music. The kids in the film accomplish a great deal, especially starting from very little. And so, I recommend ROCK SCHOOL for the whole family, even with the liberal use of the “F” word. But f***, that’s how most kids talk.

ROCK SCHOOL (not “School of Rock”, although that’s good too!)


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