SXSW 2019 – Review: STRANGE NEGOTIATIONS Is A Wonderful And Spiritual Music Documentary

FIRST IMPRESSION

Unlike any other music documentary to play at SXSW this year, Strange Negotiations provides a deep, complex portion of a musician beyond his work.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Directing
Entertainment Value
Technical Merit

Strange Negotiations is a new music documentary directed by Brandon Vedder. The film is about David Bazan, who started as the lead singer of indie rock Christian band Pedro the Lion before starting a solo career after questioning his beliefs. It debuted at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

The story of this film is far more interesting than your typical music documentary. Although the film does talk about and explore Bazan’s career, it is about so much more than that. The film focuses more on the forces that drive Bazan’s creativity, like his experiences on the road and his experiences questioning his beliefs.

One of the most impressive parts of the film is that Bazan becomes a character in his own story over the course of the film. The documentary feels so personal and Bazan is so interesting that you feel absorbed in his world. Even if you don’t know about him or his work entering the film, you will be find his story to be compelling.

The religious themes of the film are also quite interesting. Most music documentaries stray away from the social ideas that form the foundation of the artist’s music, but this film embraces Bazan’s ideas with open arms. Bazan’s perspective is very refreshing and the fact that he is so open and calm about it makes the film more welcoming.

As a whole, the film’s pacing is relatively strong. There are a few parts of the film which do feel somewhat repetitive, but the most of the film is captivating and interesting. There is a great balance between the music-oriented elements of the film and the more meditative parts so that fans will be pleased by the music and general audiences will be interested in his story.

The film uses Bazan’s music quite effectively throughout. As someone who was unfamiliar with his music prior to seeing the film, the documentary does a phenomenal job of making you admire his talent and the work he has put in to find his specific type of success. Some of the performances are so well-used that they will give you chills.

On a technical level, the film is the most impressive documentary to play at SXSW this year. The film is as beautiful to look at as Bazan’s voice is to hear. There are so many things done visually, with the camerawork and the editing, that make the film pleasing to both the eyes and the ear. The execution is about bringing us closer to Bazan and his journey, and it works.

Overall, Strange Negotiations was an extremely impressive documentary about a great musician’s spiritual journey. Hopefully this film will pick up some traction, because it is the best doc of the festival.

Strange Negotiations debuted at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

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Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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