Canadian Music Week is thrilled to announce this year’s programming for the eighth annual CMW Film Fest, with screenings held at Toronto’s The Royal Cinema from May 8th to 9th. Presented by Tribute Entertainment, this year’s festival will boast a diverse mix of exclusive Canadian premieres and limited engagements.
This year, the eclectic roster of films feature unsung heroes and larger-than-life figures from across the globe – taking us from the Washington DC punk scene to a country star from Japan. Featured films include: I Am What I Play, documenting pioneer Disc Jockeys from the 60s to 80s; I Am Thor, a loving tribute to one of rock and rolls best frontmen of all time; Sex and Broadcasting: A Film About WFMU, a heartfelt documentary on the rebellious, strange, and great New Jersey radio station; Made in Japan, an inside look into Japan’s first female country star from executive producers Elijah Wood and Morgan Spurlock; Lowdown Tracks, a celebratory and socially conscious film bringing light to street musicians from across the country; and Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90), examining the vital and legendary decade of DIY punk straight from the nation’s capital.
Tickets for Film Fest are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.
For more info on films being screened at this year’s festival, please see below.
Friday, May 8th
I AM WHAT I PLAY – 7:00PM
105 minutes | CANADA
Producer/Director: Roger King
Using material shot on location in Seattle, Boston, New York and Toronto, with rarely seen archival footage, and set to the tunes that defined the era, I AM WHAT I PLAY profiles four pioneering radio DJs during the heyday of rock radio (60s-80s). The film focuses on their programming, their politics, and their deep connections with musicians and fans. These old familiar voices defined the soundtrack of America. It’s a pleasure to be reunited with them after all these years to find out: Where are they now and how did they reinvent themselves as the medium changed?
I AM THOR – 9:15PM
84 minutes | USA
Director: Ryan Wise; Producers: Ryan Wise, Alan Higbee
Official Selection: Slamdance Film Festival, Calgary Underground Film Festival
Jon Mikl Thor always wanted to be a superhero. At school he would wear a Superman outfit underneath his clothes and at recess have kids throw bricks at his head. Shortly after the wounds healed he got into bodybuilding and went on to win numerous titles including Mr. Canada and Mr. USA all before his 21st birthday.
John combined his love of music, strength, and superheroes and created one of the first theatrical rock bands, Thor (based off the Norse legend). Voted one of the best front men of all time, John bends steel bars in his teeth, blows up hot water bottles with his lungs until they explode, and has bricks smashed on his chest.
The band enjoyed modest success in the 80’s, mostly in Europe, but never quite made it big. After suffering a severe nervous breakdown in 1987 John retired from show business and moved to North Carolina with his wife to become a normal mortal human being. Ten years after retirement he attempts a comeback to finally achieve the success that had eluded him throughout his career. The film follows Thor on his comeback for over a decade as he searches for success in the rock and roll business. With John’s reluctance to hire a manager, he tries to manage himself, which leads to another nervous breakdown that nearly kills him.
Saturday, May 9th
SEX AND BROADCASTING: A FILM ABOUT WFMU – 1:30PM
78 minutes | USA
Director: Tim K Smith; Producer: Caitlin Mae Burke
Official Selection: DOC NYC, SF Indie Fest
SEX AND BROADCASTING is a hilarious and heartfelt documentary about New Jersey’s WFMU, the strangest and (some say) greatest radio station in the world—and one man’s determination to keep it free and independent. As station manager Ken Freedman sprints to keep up with an ever-changing media landscape, he stares down the barrel of the Great Recession and all while having to keep his rebellious DJ army united. After three decades at the station, Ken is strapped to this dream. But, will his efforts be enough to keep it alive?
MADE IN JAPAN – 4:00PM
Director: Josh Bishop; Producers: Josh Diamond, Jason Diamond, Julie Lombardi, Juan Reinoso, Jim Muscarella
89 minutes | USA/Japan
Official Selection: SXSW
From executive producers, Elijah Wood and Morgan Spurlock, MADE IN JAPAN is the remarkable story of Tomi Fujiyama, the ﬁrst female Japanese country music star. From playing the USO circuit throughout Asia to headlining in Las Vegas and recording 7 albums for Columbia records, Tomi’s career culminates in a 1964 performance at The Grand Ole Opry where she followed Johnny Cash and received the only standing ovation of the night. Forty years later, Tomi and her husband set out on a journey through Japan and across the United States to fulﬁll a dream of performing at The Opry one more time. Made in Japan is a funny yet poignant multi-cultural journey through music, marriage, and the impact of the corporate world on the dreams of one woman.
LOWDOWN TRACKS – 7:00PM
Writer/Director: Shelley Saywell; Producers: Shelley Saywell, Deborah Parks
86 minutes | Canada
Official Selection: Hot Docs
LOWDOWN TRACKS tells the story of a disparate group of street musicians. Homeless, home free, or living on the margins, they are the balladeers of the “lowdown” – telling it like it is. They have talent and passion and a different view of society, as seen from the curb. How did they get there, and how do they survive? Toronto musician and activist Lorraine Segato (Parachute Club) has made homeless relief her cause for years. Inspired by field recordings from the Great Depression, she launches a modern day project to record their songs. Shot and recorded from abandoned tracks, beneath bridges, inside shelters, rooming houses, rooftops and alleyways, Lowdown Tracks is both social commentary and a celebration of the power of music and survival.
SALAD DAYS: A DECADE OF PUNK IN WASHINGTON, DC (1980-90) – 9:15PM
Writer/Director: Scott Crawford; Producers: Scott Crawford, Jim Saah
90 minutes | USA
Official Selection: DOC NYC
SALAD DAYS: A DECADE OF PUNK IN WASHINGTON, DC (1980-90) examines the early DIY punk scene in the Nation’s Capital. It was a decade when seminal bands like Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Government Issue, Scream, Void, Faith, Rites of Spring, Marginal Man, Fugazi, and others released their own records and booked their own shows—without major record label constraints or mainstream media scrutiny. Contextually, it was a cultural watershed that predated the alternative music explosion of the 1990s (and the industry’s subsequent implosion). Thirty years later, DC’s original DIY punk spirit serves as a reminder of the hopefulness of youth, the power of community and the strength of conviction.