A look at three music documentaries screening at the Seattle International Film Festival.

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‘The Glamour & the Squalor’

Though the radio DJ Marco Collins was well-known to many a Seattleite during the ’90s, for director Marq Evans, 33, he was a revelation. While staying at Hood Canal in December in 2011, without access to many radio stations, he happened upon 107.7 The End’s 20th anniversary broadcast, where they were playing 107 of the station’s most popular songs with many of the former DJs, including Collins, on the air.

“Marco, as he does, he was the one that was jumping out on the radio,” said Evans. “He had these stories that were really fascinating to me.”

He later encountered a Seattle Weekly article that told of Collins’ rise and fall — and (hopeful) re-rise. Evans soon discovered what many locals have long known: The man has a golden ear and an infectious personality that can sell you anything. (Full disclosure: I’ve known Collins for 15 years.)

Seattle International Film Festival Music Features

‘The Glamour & the Squalor’

Wednesday, June 3, at 7 p.m., the Egyptian Theater. Friday, June 5, at 4:15 p.m., the Harvard Exit.

‘Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll’

Tuesday, June 2, at 9:15 p.m., Uptown. Wednesday, June 3, at 3 p.m., Uptown.


Monday, May 25, at 1 p.m., the Egyptian.

For more information: siff.net

Many have credited Collins with being key to breaking the alt-rock music of the early ’90s and shaping today’s alternative musical culture, pushing artists like Beck, Weezer, Harvey Danger and Nirvana long before mainstream radio had a clue. The documentary, “The Glamour & the Squalor,” Evans’ first full-length feature, premieres at the Seattle International Film Festival on June 3. It is so anticipated that the Egyptian’s 650 seats sold out in three days, the fastest of the festival.

“The thing that really intrigued me at the beginning is that there was a time and a place in early ’90s Seattle, when radio was the dominating force, where you had to go to the radio, where this was one guy, that if you look at all these bands that came out of there, things kind of funnel back to him,” said Evans.

But Collins also has many demons that he’s been battling on and off for decades, hobbling his once-successful career. While he was championing new music — eventually turning his focus to electronic music artists like the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy — he was also struggling with addiction, a situation not helped by being a closeted gay man in what could be a very macho, unaccepting business.

“I was attracted to the sexuality side of his story,” said Evans. “Especially in the ’90s, radio was not tolerant of it, rock really wasn’t at the time, either, but how the music he was helping expose was helping play a part in making people think differently about that, and how that tied in with the movement for marriage equality — that was really interesting to me.”

‘Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll’

Like Collins’ story, there is a universal appeal to “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll,” which tracks the unsung heroes of the war-torn country’s rich musical pop heritage. A classic tale depicting the rise and fall of a once-great scene, “Forgotten” shows how before the Vietnam War, and before the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, was as modern and as swinging as they come, with nightclubs and glamorous singers fronting smart-dressed bands. It looked like a “Mad Men” episode, with the stylishly dressed singers combining traditional Cambodian music with American, British and French genres, including psychedelic go-go, surf-rock and smooth-crooning love songs in the vein of Frank Sinatra.

A slew of artists, including Sinn Sisamouth, Pan Ron and Yol Aularong, emerged over the next two decades. But when the Khmer Rouge ousted the royal family in power, the cultural icons were easy targets for the brutal new government.

Director John Pirozzi traces each musical shift using interviews with survivors and family and friends of those who didn’t make it. Though interesting, the picture gains frisson when the movie focuses on the attacks of the cultural tastemakers: It is believed many of the most popular artists (like Sisamouth) were killed during the genocide of the 1970s that killed 2 million people. “Forgotten” is an attempt to reclaim the musical heritage.


It’s hard to get worked up about a drum machine — but “808,” a fantastic documentary about the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer’s influence on popular culture, does a pretty good job of keeping it interesting for non-music geeks. The film features musicians as varied as ’80s pop star Phil Collins, techno artist Richie Hawtin, rappers the Beastie Boys, and hip-hop pioneers Afrika Bambaataa and Rick Rubin extolling the virtues of a machine that changed beat music (and helped invent it).

How fascinating you’ll find it depends on your love for genres and records most people aren’t deeply familiar with, such as trap, Miami bass, Detroit techno and drum ’n’ bass. It’s a super wonky, but strangely moving, film about robot music.