Even for serious cinephiles, catching every film at the 13th annual Sound Unseen festival could be a tall order. Here's a guide to our favorite films at the fest, which started Wednesday with movies about Rick Springfield (!) and Bad Brains.
All screenings are at the Trylon unless noted. Throughout the festival, Harriet Brewing's tap room (3036 Minnehaha Av. S., Mpls.) is serving as the after-party hub (see www.soundunseen.com).
"The Source" (7 p.m. Thu.) documents the Source Family, an infamous '70s Hollywood commune or cult (you say tomato...) spearheaded by alpha-male restaurateur turned religious ringleader James Baker (aka Father Yod). Experience life inside the kooky, hodgepodge theologian's compound through astonishing footage of the group's rituals and improvisational psych band. Contemporary interviews detail the lasting effects the Source had on its members, who have since become leaders in their field (or students of 35,000-year-old spiritual entities).
Although it occasionally feels like a PG episode of "Behind the Music" (what, no groupies and blow?), "Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey" (7 p.m. Fri., Ritz Theater) follows Filipino cover-band singer Arnel Pineda's, well, journey from Manila street kid to unlikely arena-rock frontman after his discovery via YouTube. Pineda's meager upbringing and humility (with a requisite splash of bravado) as he deals with tour rigors and newfound rock-star problems make him a protagonist who could melt even Simon Cowell's heart.
Filmmaker Jay Bulger risks verbal abuse and a cane whacking to tell the story of Cream's temperamental drummer Ginger Baker in "Beware of Mr. Baker" (5 p.m. Sat.). Through interviews from his South African home we meet the firebrand curmudgeon whose extemporaneous self-destructiveness is surpassed only by his love affair with rhythm (and polo). This SXSW Film Festival award winner offers insight into one of rock 'n' roll's most fabled characters.
The ultimate inspirational tale, the festival's closing film, "Charles Bradley: Soul of America" (3 p.m. Sun.), tracks the then-62-year-old soul singer as he launches his late-in-life music career by literally knocking on the door of Daptone Records owner Gabriel Roth. Bradley, a former James Brown impersonator, battles the NYC projects while caring for his elderly mother, buoyed by his love of music. Director Poull Brien splices the gifted showman's tribulations (past and present) and scenes of nascent success with grounded heart-warmth.
Other notables: "Cartoon College" (11 a.m. Sat.) watches an oddball consortium of awkward graduate students studying the art of cartooning in small-town Vermont. Think: a hybrid of MTV's "Made" and "True Life" with an indie-rock soundtrack and fewer whiny high schoolers.
One of the fest's few non-documentaries, "The History of Future Folk" (3 p.m. Sat.) is a ticklishly absurd comedy about a music-giddy spaceman who spares the human race after hearing his first notes. Enter a doofus assassin, and an Earth-saving mission gets zany.