2016 Sundance Docs in Focus: WE ARE X

we are xMy second week of Sundance doc profiles wraps up with today’s third film, the penultimate entry in the World Doc competition: From UK/USA/Japan, WE ARE X, Stephen Kijak’s profile of the glam metal powerhouse band X Japan.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition

Sundance Program Description:

The music never had to be explained. For childhood friends Yoshiki and Toshi, forming their band X in 1982 was a way of living through music. Soon they were selling out international stadiums by perfecting their own style of amps-to-11 glam rock – dubbed “psychedelic violence crime of visual shock” (imagine Iron Maiden with a David Bowie spirit animal) – and connecting with millions of fans.

Their journey to play Madison Square Garden amidst a Beatlemania-shaped maelstrom is expertly captured by director Stephen Kijak and editors Mako Kamitsuna and John Maringouin, who dismantle the kitsch and dig into the cult of personality to reveal a story of misfortune and tragedy that has shadowed the band time and again. Just as it is for their fans, music becomes a lifeblood for X Japan, as they are forced to reinvent and regroup in order to survive. Cameos by artistic giants including Marilyn Manson and David Lynch mark some memorable moments in this roller-coaster musical experience.

Some Background:
Director: Stephen Kijak
This marks Kijak’s first Sundance film. His previous work has focused on music docs, including JACO, BACKSTREET BOYS: SHOW ‘EM WHAT YOU’RE MADE OF, STONES IN EXILE, and SCOTT WALKER: 30 CENTURY MAN.

Producers: John Battsek, Diane Becker, Jonathan McHugh, and Jonathan Platt
In addition to recently executive producing Kijak’s JACO, Passion Pictures’ John Battsek has numerous past Sundance films among his producing credits, most recently last year’s DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD, CHUCK NORRIS VS COMMUNISM, and LISTEN TO ME MARLON.

Fishbowl Films’ Becker previously co-produced JACO, and is a Sundance alumna as well, having co-produced MANHUNT: THE SEARCH FOR OSAMA BIN LADEN (2013), associate produced SERGIO (2009), and line produced WE ARE THE GIANT (2014).

J2 Media and Song Stew Entertainment’s McHugh previously associate produced Sundance fiction alum PING PONG SUMMER (2014) and co-produced alum THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD (2011), in addition to co-producing the recent JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE (Venice, Toronto, DOC NYC). He is joined here by J2 Media colleague Platt, who was previous known for his music supervision, including on Sundance alum SAW (2004).

Co-Executive Producers: Andrew Ruhemann and Kerstin Emhoff
Passion Pictures’ Ruhemann’s recent Sundance executive producer credits include LISTEN TO ME MARLON, WE ARE THE GIANT, and CAPTIVATED (2014), among several others.

Prettybird’s Emhoff has previously partnered with Passion Pictures to co-executive produce Sundance alums MANHUNT, THE TILLMAN STORY (2010), and SERGIO. She also executive produced alum POSSIBILIA (2014), which appeared in New Frontier.

Editors: Mako Kamitsuna and John Maringouin
Both editors count past Sundance award-winners among their credits: Kamitsuna previously cut PARIAH (2011), while Maringouin directed/produced/edited BIG RIVER MAN (2009).

Why You Should Watch:
Kijak gets to the emotional core of the band’s key members, eschewing fluff for a deeper consideration of the impact music has had on their lives – and, in return, on those of their legion of fans. While chronicling X Japan’s present-day tour success, the film gradually and effortlessly turns the clock back to reveal the group’s surprising and often tragic history – smartly opening up the story for viewers who may never before have heard of the flamboyant musicians.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the link in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2016 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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