Can you recommend other good movies that feature folk music?
December 15, 2013 8:51 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for movies that feature folk music in an interesting way other than the ones I've listed below (not many). I've mostly loved American and Irish folk music in the past along with some Australian bush band/string fusions but I'm pretty open-minded.

So I've just watched 'A Mighty Wind' for the eleventy millionth time and I'm of course looking forward in a slightly carnal way to 'Inside Llewyn Davis'. 'Dogfight' is an interesting movie for all kinds of reasons, not least of which is the folk music that Lili Taylor's character is so into.

I don't like country music at all and I know that folk music sometimes straddles that line precariously. I'm more about 'Mitch and Mickey' and much less about 'The Main Street Singers', if that helps.
posted by h00py to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
....How hard is your "no country music" line? Because some of the music from "O Brother Where art Thou" is technically classified as "country", but it's much older rootsy country than the over-processed stuff you may be thinking of. Even if you're not all into the music after all, you've got to see George Clooney dancing like a deranged chicken to "Man of Constant Sorrow".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:55 AM on December 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

Winter's Bone, Heartlands.
posted by scruss at 8:58 AM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

That's another favourite, EC.
posted by h00py at 9:03 AM on December 15, 2013

It may push your boundaries on folk vs. country (and trust me, I probably share that same distinction), but if singer-songwriter countryish is okay (as opposed to mainstream pop junk) then Crazy Heart is very good.

If documentaries are okay, definitely check out the Phil Ochs biopic There But For Fortune (sorry if that link doesn't work outside the US). Fantastic 60's Vietnam-era political folk songwriter.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:06 AM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Jig: The Great Irish Dance-Off (full movie on Youtube) is about competitive Irish step dancing. Many scenes are filmed during competitions and practices where Irish folk music is played in the background. Also, it's a fascinating glimpse of this little microcosm that is so important to the families in it and basically unknown to anyone outside.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:07 AM on December 15, 2013

You might like Searching for Sugar Man.
posted by oulipian at 9:09 AM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Songcatcher is about the music in an isolated Appalachian town where a musicologist finds links to Scots-Irish tradition. The Appalachian part might push it into "country" territory but it predates O Brother Where Art Thou (I think it takes place around 1910) so maybe it will work for you.
posted by bcwinters at 9:17 AM on December 15, 2013 [7 favorites]

Coal Miner's Daughter may or may not be too far over your country line, but I love A Mighty Wind and love it too.
posted by terretu at 9:19 AM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you watched The Boys and Girl From County Clare? It's a movie about the Irish fleadh - ceili band music competition - and a surrounding family drama, set in the 1960's. Tons of music. Colm Meaney. Based on a real music-playing family. Personally I love it, but if you're not familiar with the ways of Irish musicians, it'll be somewhat less hilarious.
posted by aimedwander at 9:30 AM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is totally breaking your rule about country, but if you enjoyed O Brother, you might also like the documentary Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus.

Would I be wrong in thinking it's pop country you dislike? 'Country' is a pretty big umbrella, and there aren't always super-clear distinctions among different genres.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:32 AM on December 15, 2013

Into The Wild features a folk-rock soundtrack by Eddie Vedder.
posted by COD at 10:00 AM on December 15, 2013

"Once" will probably fit the bill.
posted by baseballpajamas at 10:13 AM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

The Dylan "biopic" I'm Not There is full of (obviously) covers of Bob Dylan songs.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 10:25 AM on December 15, 2013

I haven't seen Cold Mountain, but I love its soundtrack.
posted by hades at 10:55 AM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus. There's country in there, but also a lot of American folk and bluegrass and a ton of weirdness. Here's a clip.
posted by pipeski at 11:14 AM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

John Sayles' charming film, The Secret of Roan Innish, fits the bill, with one of the best trad Irish soundtracks around
posted by dbmcd at 11:41 AM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I don't know if non-English language folk music is out of bounds, but if it isn't, then Black Cat, White Cat is great. Absolutely splendid fun.
posted by ambrosen at 11:43 AM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hal Ashby's Bound for Glory is really good biopic about Woody Guthrie.
posted by Chenko at 12:05 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you seen Bob Roberts, a mockumentary starring Tim Robbins as a conservative political candidate who plays folky conservative-themed songs to convey his message?
posted by julen at 12:56 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just remembered Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, which is wonderful. Perfect time of year for it, too.
posted by oulipian at 1:13 PM on December 15, 2013

seconding Songcatcher-

This is a great movie that does an amazing job of articulating the serious issues of cultural appropriation in the world of music - not to mention the tension between mountain and lowland societies.

"The only way to preserve our way of life up here is to keep your way of life down there."
posted by jammy at 1:24 PM on December 15, 2013

Winter's Bone has lovely folk music. Plus it's a wonderful movie to watch.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:42 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Alice's Restaurant?
posted by wintrymix at 2:42 PM on December 15, 2013

Broken Circle Breakdown
posted by anoirmarie at 4:24 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Latcho Drom is a fascinating documentary about Roma music traditions. I love the completely silent narrator. The "folk" in folk music here is fairly old-world, apologies if this stretches the question.
posted by ovvl at 4:41 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Raising Arizona.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 5:16 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh. I remembered something else that might fit the bill: Matewan, directed by John Sayles and with an Appalachian folk soundtrack.

There's also the new Belgian film The Broken Circle Breakdown, which is still playing in theaters in the US. (I haven't seen it yet, but the trailers look good.)

While I'm here, has a film section, mostly or maybe all documentaries, if you want to poke around there.
posted by ernielundquist at 5:42 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Who's Singing Over There? has at it's center an encapsulating folk song. Not anglo-celtic but rather yugoslav-gypsy music. A fine movie. Lyrics to song here.

Chorus is:

I am miserable I was born that way
From all the misery I sing songs
I would love, my dear mother
If all this was just a dream
posted by bertran at 5:50 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure how folky you consider Jack Johnson to be, but I thought the integration of his music into the story of the film "Curious George" was fantastic.
posted by jbickers at 5:37 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, is a parody, lots of music, and lots of it written by Dan Bern.
posted by th3ph17 at 9:47 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could check out Les Blank's films, though maybe too much documentary. Not sure if you're looking for features only.
posted by bubukaba at 7:31 PM on January 6, 2014

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