Even for serious cinephiles, catching every film at this year's 13th annual Sound Unseen festival could be a tall order. We've compiled a guide to our five favorites at the five-day fest starting Wednesday at Trylon Microcinema -- with Harriet Brewing's nearby tap room serving as a live-music hub -- plus a few honorable mentions to help sort through the lineup, which is heavy on music documentaries. All screenings are at the Trylon unless otherwise noted.
Apparently, Rick Springfield still has fans -- fanatical ones. "An Affair of the Heart" (7 p.m. Wednesday, sold out) explores the dynamics between the '80s teeny-bopping rocker/soap star and his rabid fan base, mostly screaming housewives. Director Sylvia Caminer paints an authentic connection between the aged heartthrob and his admirers -- some truly touching tales are immune to rebuttal -- but co-dependency questions arise. Either way, it's an interesting take on celebrity-fandom interplay.
"The Source" (7 p.m. Thursday) documents the Source Family, an infamous 1970s Hollywood commune/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).
Though 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. Friday, 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. Saturday). 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. Sunday), 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: "Bad Brains: A Band in D.C." (9 p.m. Wednesday) rehashes the rise and stumbling of the hardcore legends and their mercurial, if not mentally unstable, frontman HR. Despite some clunky illustration and the understatement of the all-black punks' racial significance, fans are treated to solid helpings of vintage concert footage.
"Cartoon College" (11 a.m. Saturday) 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-docs, "The History of Future Folk" (3 p.m. Oct. 13) 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.