European films about music: Walk this Way’s Top 7

Music is an essential part of filmmaking, its magic being revealed most fully when the film is all about it. Here is Walk this Way’s top six choices of films telling the tales of inspiring musicians:

As time goes by in Shangai (documentary) by Uli Gaulke

Directed by Uli Gaulke, (author of Havanna Mi Amor, awarded and selected at the Cinéma du Réel Festival, Munich Film Festival and Sundance), the documentary tells the story of the "oldest jazz band in the world” – Peace Old Jazz. By following the band’s trip to Rotterdam for the North Sea Jazz Festival, the film portrays the power of dedication to music, despite the oppression of the arts during the Cultural Revolution in China. This is a beautiful success story, accompanied by lots of funny cultural misunderstandings. As time goes by in Shangai will be be released on VoD on 2 May, via the Docs from around the world collection.

Mama Africa (documentary) by Mika Kaurismäki

Mama Africa is a documentary about Miriam Makeba – the first African musician to achieve international recognition as a superstar and to bring South African music to the world. Because of her anti-apartheid music, she was forced into exile, which became her chance for international success – singing for John F. Kennedy, Marlon Brando and performing with Harry Belafonte and Nina Simone. Long before any others, she became a symbol of truth and justice for all suppressed people. Last year Mama Africa was released on VoD on Walk this Way… and it’s still available!

Buena Vista Social Club (documentary) by Wim Wenders

Similar to As Times Goes By in Shanghai, Buena Vista Social Club is about aging Cuban musicians whose talents had been virtually forgotten following Castro's takeover of Cuba. But now, they are brought out of retirement by Ry Cooder, who travels to Havana in order to bring the musicians together. Triumphant performances and extraordinary music resurrect the musicians' careers – a music/film experience not to be missed.

Pop Redemption (fiction) by Martin Le Gall

A black metal band is about to split up after 15 years. On their way to one last gig at Hellfest, a French music festival, an accidental death triggers numerous misadventures. Mixing elements from a ‘turning-thirty’ crisis film, a road-movie, and a film about friendship, Pop Redemption is a must-see French comedy for metalheads.

Eden (fiction) by Mia Hansen-Løve

Eden is a French drama film that follows Paul, a French DJ who's credited with inventing "French house," a type of French electronic music that became popular in the 1990s. Spanning 20 years in the life of the Parisian DJ, the film is a thoughtful, melancholic and elegant drama set in the world of electronic music.

Amy (documentary) by Asif Kapadia

Asif Kapadia masterfully shows Amy Winehouse’s life in her own words. Featuring unseen archival footage and unheard tracks, the documentary unveils the person behind the star. The winner of an Oscar for Best Documentary pays tribute to a great artist, who, despite releasing only two albums, has become one of the great jazz performers of all time.

La Vie en Rose (feature) by Olivier Dahan

Winner of two Oscars, La Vie en Rose is the life story of French singer Édith Piaf. From childhood to glory, from triumph to despair, from Belleville to New York, with a breath-taking performance by Marion Cotillard, the film follows he extraordinary life of “La Môme Piaf”.

30 April 2016, by Cineuropa