A Band Called Death
Other // Unrated // June 28, 2013
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted June 27, 2013
Highly Recommended
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Documentaries require a lot of technique, but all of that skill is useless if the film's topic isn't very compelling. When it comes to the music industry, there must be more to the picture than having great music. The story absolutely must resonate with the viewers for the feature to be successful. I always enjoy watching a wide variety of documentaries, but it's always more intriguing when one doesn't know very much about the subject before the movie begins. This is the case of Drafthouse Films' A Band Called Dead, which deserves a lot more hype than it has been receiving. Not only is the topic strong, but it tells the story of a legendary band that never obtained the exposure that they deserved. Now that this exceptional story will be seen by moviegoers, it will introduce audiences around the world to the music and the three men who started it.

In 1971, three men formed a punk rock band in Detroit, Michigan. This trio created music that was so ahead of its time that it inspired big-time artists around the globe. One of the members came up with the name "Death," but it ultimately became a lot more than a band title for him. This became an entire belief system, although record labels absolutely loathed the name. This hindered the band from getting signed numerous times, but they continued to play the music that they loved. These men experienced tragic moments in their lives, but they continued to express themselves through their music. A Band Called Death tells the story of how "Death" was established and how they got to where they are today.

The beginning of the movie conveys how the trio's childhood played a huge part in their love to play music. We explore the lives of Bobby Hackney, Dannis Hackney, and the late David Hackney. Directors Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett have done an excellent job in collecting such rich content for the film. This documentary discusses some truly intriguing individuals who have so many excellent experiences to share. Every word they say feels genuine in its own special way. When Bobby and Dannis are speaking about David, it most certainly delivers an emotional impact that few motion pictures are able to provide. This movie is only partially about how the band got their name, since it's primarily about the relationship between these three brothers. A Band Called Death offers a lot of deep material that provides a large amount of heart.

The name "Death" was incredibly controversial for a band name at the time. However, David Hackney had spiritual reasons for it, as it wasn't about sounding dark and edgy. He was inspired to come up with the name after their father died. This greatly affected David's behavior, as he wouldn't budge after being given any advice from his brothers. He had a vision and was willing to do anything to ensure that it wasn't destroyed by a record label. Despite the constant rejection from everybody around them, David remained motivated enough to drive his brothers to maintain their patience. The tragedy that continued to strike them through one occasion after another kept wearing them down. After hearing only half of their story, it's difficult to not find these individuals to be fantastic interviewees who are providing authentic pathos.

After finishing the story, the motion picture answers a specific question: where are they today? Both of the surviving Hackney brothers discuss how their times of hardship affected them. It's clear that music is part of their DNA and nothing can separate them from the art form. The family bond is so crucial to this documentary. Directors Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett convey the relationships found between these individuals extremely well. This type of powerful connection is rarely portrayed accurately on film, but this is one of those rare occasions. You're guaranteed to become so immersed in the family's history that you won't be paying nearly as much attention to the music portions. There aren't very documentaries that can pull that off.

Documentaries usually require experts and whatnot in order to validate the claims being given, but A Band Called Death doesn't need any of that. There are some well-known celebrities that speak through the beginning of the running time, but they don't feel necessary. In fact, it detracts from the point that this film is trying to get across. The documentary should keep its focus on the specific individuals. The family is so moving that it doesn't truly need any fact-proving segments. You'll find yourself so engrossed by the film's messages that nothing else is needed to draw viewers in. There are times when the filmmakers attempt to take different routes to please audiences.

This documentary can be and should be enjoyed by all. Regardless of your feelings towards documentaries and this genre of music, this is definitely worth watching. This is an astounding story that I will never forget, since it leaves its mark. These brothers endured a lot of tragedy, but they stand for such inspirational messages. While David Hackney never got the chance to witness the band's success at shows, he could easily act as a role model for many in the music community. A Band Called Death is a fascinating look into the lives of a trio of brothers who always put family first. Highly recommended.

Note: The film will be in theaters on June 28th, but is available now on iTunes, VOD, and digital download. Find a screening near you!: http://abandcalleddeath.com.

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