SIGUR RÓS: HEIMA
★★★★ out of four stars
With its starkly beautiful Icelandic landscapes, this film at first appears to be more of a minimalist art piece than a documentary. "Heima" takes place during a series of free unannounced concerts in the summer of 2006 after Sigur Ros had toured the world and returned to their homeland ("heima"). There's rare interview material with the notoriously shy band, but mostly this focuses on the musical journey across Iceland, as Sigur Ros performs everywhere from a dam protest site to a deserted herring oil tank to the countryside. For fans of the music, it's a must-see; for film lovers, it shows the interconnectedness of the band's sound to its surroundings and origins. Tonight's postparty at the Back Room (509 1st Av. NE., Mpls.) includes live music by Sika, A Whisper in the Noise and DJ A-Ray. (7:15 p.m. Fri. & 9 p.m. Sun.)
Sonic Youth: Sleeping Nights Awake ★★
Give a bunch of high school kids some cameras and send them out to a Sonic Youth show, and guess what happens? Not a lot. Not even at the 2006 casino gig in Reno, Nev., that was the basis of this 80-minute documentary. The young filmmakers interviewed everyone from the soundman to the requisite fan with a band tattoo to the musicians themselves. Their most interesting subject was actually the guitar tech, which tells you something about Sonic Youth's music, and about how dull this behind-the-scenes stuff is. The concert footage, however - all shot in black and white -- is high-quality. (9:15 p.m. Fri.)
Also showing: "Wholphin Shorts," 5:30 p.m. A compendium of music films including "Heavy Metal Jr."SATURDAY
"Folks, you are in an amazing place," comedian Dave Gruber Allen says by way of introducing another evening at the Los Angeles underground club Largo. "You never know who's going to drop in." In 1993, owner Mark Flanagan bought Largo and subsequently "brought great food, unchecked syphilis and great music to L.A.," as Allen puts it. The documentary focuses on the musicians and comedians -- including Fiona Apple, Flight of the Conchords, Aimee Mann, Sarah Silverman, John C. Reilly, Andrew Bird and Jackson Browne -- who give the club its reputation. The grainy black-and-white format is a fitting canvas for the magical and iconic moments captured here. (3 p.m. Sat. & 9 p.m. Tue.) J.P.
Of All the Things
Dennis Lambert was part of a songwriting/producing duo that thrived from the late '60s to early '80s, creating dozens of Billboard hits. In 1972, Lambert decided to record his own album, "Bags and Things," which flopped -- except in the Philippines, where it was a tremendous hits. Thirty-five years later, Lambert, at the insistence of his son Jody (who directed), heads there for a concert and to meet his obsessed fans. While this sounds like a potentially fascinating film, "Of All the Things" is thoroughly tedious. This is a movie only a son could love, replete with dull news conferences, uneventful bus rides and, at its heart, some of the most tepid concert footage ever filmed. (5:15 p.m. Sat. & 3 p.m. Sun.)
Low: You May Need a Murderer
It took a Dutch filmmaker to document something that longtime fans of Minnesota's best little indie-rock trio have sort of forgotten: Low is one weird friggin' band. As is highlighted in this smartly understated 70-minute documentary, the great instigator of slowcore is led by a happily married couple (Oddity No. 1), who grew up in the poorest county in Minnesota (No. 2) and honed their innovative musical craft in Duluth (No. 3), and now tour the world with their two adorable and noticeably well-adjusted young children in tow (No. 4), even after the dad fought a bout of insanity (No. 5). Oh, yeah, and they're Mormons (No. 6-No. 125). The religion angle winds up being the most fascinating part of the film, enough to make you rethink and maybe more deeply appreciate the music. Saturday's after-party at Aloft Hotel (900 Washington Av. S., Mpls.) features Ultrachorus, the Battle Royale and DJ Real Talk Radio. (7:15 p.m. Sat. & 9:15 p.m. Wed.) C.R.
Every rapper needs a great hard-knocks story. Emmanuel Jal's probably tops them all. His starts in southern Sudan, where the country's civil war turned him into a child soldier. Now in his late 20s, he's using hip-hop to tell the world about his struggle and the plight of his homeland. While he provides vivid insight into his childhood horrors -- his mother was killed and aunt raped in front of him -- filmmaker Karim Chrobog adds old footage of Jal as a boy, being interviewed in a refugee camp. The Jal of today is a soft speaker who comes alive onstage, his songs dedicated to peace and uplift. The film is beautifully shot, following Jal from the United States to a trip home, where he will reunite with loved ones he hasn't seen in years. A mesmerizing account, told to a hip-hop beat. (9:30 p.m. Sat. & 5 p.m. Mon.)
"Of All the Things," 3 p.m. (see Sat.). "Note by Note: The Making of a Steinway L1037," 5 p.m. Documentary following the grand piano from forest floor to concert hall. "Half Moon," 7 p.m. A family of Kurdish musicians travels to Iraq to celebrate the fall of Saddam Hussein. "Sigur Ros: Heima," 9 p.m. (see Fri.).MONDAY
"War Child," 5 p.m. (see Sat.). A Neil Young double feature: "Dead Man," 7 p.m., starring Johnny Depp and scored by Young, and "Rust Never Sleeps," 9:15 p.m., Young's classic 1978 concert film.TUESDAY
HEAVY METAL IN BAGHDAD
★★★ Acrassicauda, named for a deadly black scorpion, is a heavy metal band based in Baghdad. Two intrepid reporters from Vice magazine go crazy for the group and, over four years, fly to Iraq three times to see how things are going. Things are not going well. While far from perfect -- there could be a lot more music and a lot less proselytizing -- "Heavy Metal in Baghdad" is a fascinating ride. When the music's on, this movie, well, rocks. "If you really want to know why we play, look around," lead vocalist Faisal says as mortars explode. "We're living in a heavy metal world." (7:15 p.m. Tue.) P.S.
Also showing: "Every Beat of My Heart," 5:30 p.m. Bio of R&B great Johnny Otis. "Largo," 9 p.m. (see Sat.). "Merely Mouthpiece," 7:15 p.m. Digital film by ex-Minneapolitan Adam Sekuler, with score by Spaghetti Western String Co. Screening at 2820 E. 33rd St., Mpls.WEDNESDAY
★★ 1/2 out of four stars
Geeks who got beat up in grade school for watching "Star Trek" are now staking claim to the roughest, toughest genre in music -- hip-hop -- and it may be the goofiest thing you've ever heard. This documentary follows nerdcore's biggest star, MC Frontalot, as he tours the country urging other dorks to join the cause. But geeky white dudes rhyming (terribly) about Trekkies and role-playing games only stays amusing for so long. Director Negin Farsad fine-tunes this little romp with insight from nerd-culture luminaries such as Weird Al Yankovic. She also confronts nerdcore's possible racist undertones (is it a minstrel show?). (7:15 p.m.) T.H.
Also showing: "Note by Note," 5:30 p.m. (see Sun.). "Low: You May Need a Murderer," 9:15 p.m. (see Sat.).THURSDAY
ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL
This "real-life Spinal Tap" is the year's most entertaining documentary. Director Sacha Gervasi follows Steve (Lips) Kudlow and Robb Reiner, the 50-ish co-founders of the Canadian heavy-metal band Anvil, as they head on a disastrous European tour and drop a fortune on their 13th album, hoping for a sweet record deal and the fame that has eluded them. Kudlow, the eternal optimist, and Reiner, the down-to-earth realist, are at once hilarious, irritating, endearing and, ultimately, possessed of great dignity. What might seem a silly romp reveals itself as a touching examination of the nature of friendship, art and sacrifice. In fact, the film leaves one wondering if it is the duo's grace and human decency -- and not any lack of passion or talent -- that kept them from fame. The screening is followed by a closing party at Stasiu's (2500 University Av. NE., Mpls.) with local band Strut & Shock and DJ Lori Barbero. (7:15 p.m. Thu.) P.S.
Also showing: "The Gits," 5:30 p.m. Story of a Seattle punk band whose singer, Mia Zapata, was murdered. "Wholphin Shorts," 9:15 p.m. (see Fri.)