Beat's guide to this year's must-see MIFF music documentaries

From Jimmy Barnes to Ryuichi Sakamoto, this year's MIFF program has something for every type of music fan. 

Melbourne's International Film Festival is back for another year, bringing a barrage of films across a slather of genres to the silver screen. Music lovers are in luck this year, with the 2018 program boasting a wide selection of music documentaries detailing the careers of everyone from Joan Jett to Ryuichi Sakamoto -- providing something for everyone in amongst the mix. Here's our rundown of this year's can't-miss MIFF music documentaries for all you music and film fanatics.

Bad Reputation

Undeterred by the boys club which ruled the rock and punk scenes in the '70s and '80s, Joan Jett was the original rock rebel -- breaking all the rules to get the same opportunities as her male peers. The Runaways and Blackhearts frontwoman played 'like a man' and made sure she was heard by becoming one of the first women to start her own record label. Captured by Kevin Kerslake, Bad Reputation is an inspiring tale of how Joan Jett became an unlikely feminist pioneer in the punk scene.

Now Sound: Melbourne's Listening

Now Sound: Melbourne's Listening provides a look into the inner-workings of the world's live music capital. Documenting the countless acts that have sprouted from the region's fertile musical soil, the venues that have become institutions in the city's creative landscape and the obstacles that have threatened to undercut the industry, Now Sound is an intimate look inside Melbourne's music community. Featuring live footage from a range of gigs over the past two years as well as interviews with the likes of Jen Cloher, Kirin J Callinan, Courtney Barnett and Client Liaison, this is one that will hit close to home.

Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story

This documentary is one as strange as the story it depicts, detailing the papier-mache head wielding musician Chris Sievey's double life. Despite failing to get his band, The Freshies, off the ground, Sievey found success as his cartoonish alter ego Frank Sidebottom. Behind the mask of Frank, Sievey found himself everywhere from Wembley Stadium to fronting his own children's show, accumulating a cult following in the process. Through a huge archive of personal notebooks and interviews with those who knew him well - including the likes of Ross Noble and Jon Ronson - Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story peers underneath the mask at the man behind Frank Sidebottom.

If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd

Having made its premiere at SXSW this year, If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd is the first documentary to be endorsed by the band -- allowing for an intimate look at their antics on and off the stage. Detailing everything from the camaraderie shared by the men behind Lynyrd Skynyrd, their humble beginnings in Jacksonville and the tragic Mississippi plan crash that proved fatal for three of the band's members in 1977, If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd is a heartfelt documentary about music, friendship, partying and everything in between.

Working Class Boy

Based on Jimmy Barnes' recently released memoir of the same name, Working Class Boy looks at Barnes' childhood growing up in rough neighbourhoods surrounded by addiction, alcoholism, poverty and abuse, being swept away from it all with Cold Chisel and how his rock'n'roll lifestyle and childhood scars eventually caught up with him. Working Class Boy tells the story of one of Australia's rock icons, straight from the horse's mouth with no sugar-coating or holding back. An inspiring tale of overcoming hardship and excelling against all odds, this is the unadulterated story of Jimmy Barnes.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda

Japanese composer and producer, Ryuichi Sakamoto helped pioneer hip-hop and electronic genres through his music group Yellow Magic Orchestra and solo hit 'Riot in Lagos', going on to collaborate with everyone from Cyndi Lauper to Iggy Pop. Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda follows Sakamoto's incredible career and the obstacles which threatened to take it all away. After the Fukushima nuclear power plant melted down in 2011, Sakamoto became vocal as an activist against nuclear power before being diagnosed with throat cancer three years later. In a storytelling fashion as fluid and powerful as his music, Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda captures the essence of Sakamoto's enigma, music and life.


Having always wanted to be a filmmaker herself, MATANGI/MAYA/M.I.A. is largely made up of footage shot by Mathangi Arulpragasm herself. More popularly known as M.I.A., the singer songwriter was one of the first artists to make a name for themselves using internet file sharing systems. The Sundance award-winning documentary digs deeper than M.I.A.'s career peaks and troughs, looking at the lion-hearted woman behind the music and how her ambitious nature and endeavours in political activism ultimately hurt her career just as it was flourishing.

Here to be Heard: The Story of The Slits

Making its Australian debut, Here to be Heard: The Story of The Slits follows the rebellious female rock group as they forced their way into the '70s London rock scene despite its heavy male dominance. Utilising a huge archive of footage shot by vocalist Ari Up during the band's heyday, the documentary offers a unique firsthand look at the band as they were perceived both by the public and through their own eyes. Containing a huge slab of interviews, Here to be Heard: The Story of The Slits is an unflinchingly honest depiction of the punk group and the relentless women behind it. 

Melbourne International Film Festival runs from Thursday August 2 - Sunday August 19. For tickets, venues and session times, head to the MIFF website