The Family Jams (2009) D: Kevin Barker

The Family Jams

In 2004, director Kevin Barker took a small handycam on tour with friend Devendra Banhart, quirky harpist Joanna Newsom and subdued folky Vetiver as the musicians toured cross country during the cusp of their greatest success. The result is The Family Jams, an intimate portrait of life on the road and passion for music.

Ostensibly a document of the director’s friend Banhart, the centre of this film seems to be Newsom whose rather large harp and eccentric performances draw the viewer to her story. When tragedy strikes and she must leave the tour temporarily, the centre of the film shifts to her absence. While Banhart does have a tale of his own to tell about his family life, Vetiver is given little showing.

The videography in this film is hurried and, while intimate, at times fairly poor. In one scene in the tour van, we get a five second shot of the roof. What is great about the film though is the energy and the comradery it  captures from this enthusiastic group of touring musicians who at the time hadn’t yet found the relative success they soon found after the tour. Picking up guests along the way, including The Pleased and Antony and the Johnsons, Banhart, Newsom and Vetiver come across as a merry band of wandering minstrels in search of the pure joy of music.

Definite must-see for fans of the music and documentaries in general  3.5 stars


~ by mfnm on July 17, 2010.

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