Sound Unseen 20 First Wave Announcement

The Sound Unseen Film/Music Festival (November 12-17) previewed the film festival’s 20th Anniversary edition of the festival today by revealing the titles of five initial selections. Recently announced as one of MovieMaker Magazine’s “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World,” Sound Unseen has chosen Seamus Murphy’s A DOG CALLED MONEY for its Opening Night Gala co-presented with the Walker Art Center. Brandon Vedder’s STRANGE NEGOTIATIONS is the Centerpiece Selection.

Also announced were Eric Mahoney’s BRAINIAC: TRANSMISSIONS AFTER ZERO, Barbara Bentree’s DAVE GRUSIN: NOT ENOUGH TIME, and Richard Lowenstein’s MYSTIFY: MICHAEL HUTCHENCE.

Sound Unseen Festival Director Jim Brunzell, said, “Often times, the success of a documentary lies almost wholly with how compelling the subject of the film is. And with P.J. Harvey, Brainiac with Tim Taylor, Dave Grusin, Michael Hutchence and David Bazan, you would be hard-pressed to find more talented, enigmatic, and fascinating subjects. These five films are a great entrée into what we will have in store for Sound Unseen fans this year.” 

Tuesday, November 12, Sound Unseen will kick off this year’s film festival with a Gala event co-presented by the Walker Art Center (725 Vineland Place) which will begin with a live music performance at 6:30PM by Katy Vernon, followed by the presentation of Murphy’s A DOG CALLED MONEY. The film follows the unique collaboration between photographer, artist, filmmaker Murphy and PJ Harvey as she looks for inspiration for her next album by traveling with the filmmaker to Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Washington D.C. Murphy kept the camera turned on both of them through the journey and her unique recording process to give a rare access and insight into Harvey’s creative process. A post-show reception will follow the screening.

The Centerpiece Screening selection is Vedder’s STRANGE NEGOTIATIONS, which will screen on Friday, 11/15 at Parkway Theater (4818 Chicago Avenue). The film follows David Bazan, several years after rejecting Christianity and leaving his band, Pedro the Lion as he continues to tour as a solo performer. With a family to support, he suddenly finds himself somewhat of a calming voice and a trusted voice to Americans left reeling from the results of the 2016 election. 

Screening at The Trylon Cinema (2820 E. 33rd Street) and Parkway will be Mahoney’s BRAINIAC: TRANSMISSIONS AFTER ZERO and Lowenstein’s MYSTIFY: MICHAEL HUTCHENCE both focus on bands that had great success or were on the very cusp of it, when tragedy struck their charismatic front men/lead singers. Bentree’s DAVE GRUSIN: NOT ENOUGH TIME looks at the amazingly prolific and diverse career of the award-winning, jazz legend.

Sound Unseen also announced that Surly Brewing Co. will be the official beer sponsor of this year’s festival. Surly will be available at each screening in addition to hosting one of the film screenings in Scheid Hall, the brewery’s private event space.

“If you were to ask any craft beer drinker about their interests, their response will always include music, film and art,” said Bill Manley, vice president of marketing, Surly Brewing Co. “Sound Unseen brings these passions together for a unique and groundbreaking experience, aligning with the experiences fans come to expect with craft beer. We’re thrilled to be joining them in this immersive event.”  

The entire Sound Unseen Film + Music festival lineup will be announced Wednesday, October 16. 

The 2019 Sound Unseen Film + Music Festival initial selections

Opening Night Selection


Director: Seamus Murphy
Countries: Ireland/UK, Running Time: 90 min

Alternative-music icon PJ Harvey's ninth studio album, 2016's "The Hope Six Demolition Project," was created through a unique process that blended travelogue, photography, performance art, and now a documentary feature. It began when Harvey, looking to develop a new set of politically tinged songs that would also evoke a tangible sense of place, decided to accompany award-winning photojournalist and filmmaker Seamus Murphy as he travelled on assignments to war-torn regions in Afghanistan and Kosovo, as well as to the poor, mostly black neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. As Murphy filmed, Harvey personally interacted with the members of the different communities and wrote her impressions in a diary, crafting song lyrics and melodies based on the stories she uncovered. Back in London, Harvey and her band experimented with these new songs during a live sound installation called "Recording in Progress" at the distinguished Somerset House, generating an album's worth of material entirely within a glass-walled recording studio, with members of the public invited to watch. Chronicling the entire project, and even including a handful of songs not on the final album, A DOG CALLED MONEY is Murphy's inspiring, expressionistic document of this unprecedented collaborative experiment.



Director: Brandon Vedder

Countries: USA, Running Time: 91 min

After renouncing his long-held Christian beliefs and walking away from his critically-acclaimed band, Pedro the Lion, musician David Bazan retreated into a solitary life of touring solo, struggling to rebuild his worldview and career from the ground-up, and to support his family of four. STRANGE NEGOTIATIONS finds David a decade into his journey, during which he has become a sort of reluctant prophet to Americans reeling from their country’s own crisis of faith highlighted during the 2016 presidential election. 


Director: Eric Mahoney
Country: USA, Running Time: 108 min

In the mid 90's, the Dayton, Ohio music scene became a hot spot generating world wide buzz from the influential indie rock being produced there (The Breeders, Guided by Voices). Arguably the most innovative of them all was the band Brainiac, led by musical genius and insanely charismatic front man Tim Taylor. The band was opening for Beck and being courted by major labels when Tim was tragically killed in a bizarre auto accident leaving his family and bandmates to pick up the pieces. This film explores the band's music, legacy, massive influence on pop culture and how people survive and cope with the loss of loved ones.


Director: Barbara Bentree
Country: USA, Running Time: 88 min

DAVE GRUSIN: NOT ENOUGH TIME is an award-winning, "elegant and uplifting" feature-length documentary about one of the 20th Century's most important music composers. His music is known and loved all over the world but even his most ardent fans don't completely realize what a phenomenal career he has had. Composer, Pianist, Arranger, Performer and Record Company Executive. He led a completely bi-coastal life for decades flying weekly between LA and NY to work with an astounding list of music and film artists. With never-before-seen photos and concert footage, the film traces Grusin's meteoric rise from Colorado cowboy to global music star. 


Director: Richard Lowenstein
Country: Australia, Running Time: 102 min

MYSTIFY: MICHAEL HUTCHENCE is a powerfully intimate and insightful portrait of the internationally renowned INXS frontman, Michael Hutchence. Deftly woven from an extraordinary archive of rich imagery, Michael’s private home movies and those of his lovers, friends, and family, the film delves beneath the public persona of the charismatic ‘Rock God’ and transports us through the looking glass to reveal a multifaceted, intensely sensitive and complex man. For an all too brief time, we revel in Michael’s Dionysian beauty and sensuality on stage and off. We listen to the range of his extraordinary voice and witness the charmed way he travels through life as he is propelled to world acclaim. But Michael struggled with the idea of success, the creative limits of pop stardom and how to express his integrity; a longing that shaped his life and music and gave birth to a desire to go far beyond the constraints of pop. A violent event strikes Michael and changes his life forever, fracturing his sense of self and robbing him of his connection to life. Made vulnerable, he is unable to navigate the complex challenges he faces moving forward and he has little defense against the onslaught of tabloid press that descends upon his world. Amidst the encroaching darkness, Michael’s new-born daughter, Tiger, becomes his one bright light.