Danielson: A Family Movie
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(Apr 10, 2007)
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This intimate and eloquent documentary traces the unorthodox path of Daniel Smith - eccentric musician, visual artist and devout Christian - as he creates a musical phenomenon with siblings and friends under the name Danielson Famile, eventually struggling to realize his own identity as an artist once the family members begin their own adult lives. Along the way he mentors an unknown singer-songwriter named Sufjan Stevens, whose subsequent success stands in contrast to the music world's uneasy reception of Danielson just a few years earlier. Combining hybrid storytelling, essential live performances, animated sequences and a dollop of Danielson archives, director JL Aronson offers a provocative yet subtle look at a complex life outside the mainstream.
Danielson: A Family Movie, is a feature-length documentary that sheds light on the story of this enigmatic indie-rock band. When The Danielson Famile released their first album on Tooth and Nail Records in the nineties, listeners wondered if their heavy Christian message was sincere. Portrayed in the media as an outsider band on par with the beloved Shaggs, Danielson Famile played a new type of homespun rock, seemingly based on The Pixies with bandleader Daniel Smith's screechy, Black Francis vocals and quirky compositional contributions by his siblings Rachel, Megan, David, and Andrew Smith. Dressing in nurse uniforms to spread the message of Jesus' healing, the Danielson Famile toured nightclub and festival circuits despite their strict adherence to Christian morality. Questions about the relevance of their Christianity to their sound have polarized fans and haters, as shown by ample film footage of audience interviewing post-Danielson Famile gigs. This conundrum, however, is precisely what excites fans, as the band splits and reunites to accommodate family scheduling and added crew such as Chris Palladino and Sufjan Stevens. A Family Movie covers much of the Danielson history with sweet animation by Chirs Palladino and others, dispersed through vintage concert clips and home-video footage of the kids practicing music and living life. A narrative format in which each sibling reads their written letter to fellow family members reinforces the closeness of this tight-knit clan. As the film progresses, pacing slows as Daniel explains the beginnings of his solo career, and his story digresses into Sufjan Steven's, which is frustrating. But to see a film about a family so committed to music and its potential to heal and spread love is uniquely awe-inspiring. --Trinie Dalton
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I was surprised by the depth and humanity of Daniel (made sparklingly clear by the great filmmakers); his reliability as a man on a mission to do what he needs to do, and be who he truly is.
I have seen the movie three or four times now, finding more each time to relate with (I am a musician/songwriter as well).
Five bags of popcorn and two sodas up for this feature.
Needless to say, I was excited when this DVD came out. My family and I have watched it at least 4 times. It is packed with live performances (including Daniel's thesis show), interviews, and lots of extras, including their music videos. It's thoroughly enjoyable!
What an interesting band (Danielson Famile). This documentary is such a neat view of the family and everything that goes/went on behind the scenes. If you like the band, then you'll love this movie. If you've never heard of the band, give them a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.
I love it now that I can share the story of his "vision" or the vision that God gave him and the familie who joined in for the ride. A great documentary that I am now showing all my friends. Check it out!!!!