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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Talihina Sky", Kings of Leon, music, home... and God

Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon 
In-Edit Beefeater Festival 2011, chapter II

After our first approach to Dylan at Newport, during the In-Edit Festival we chose a quite different option for the second film. A very recent documentary (presented this 2011 at the Tribeca Film Festival) on one of the most successful bands of the last decade, particularly in the States, Kings of Leon (KOL). Since the very beginning, we would see the film was going to be far more interesting than the average documentary of a band arising from nowhere to stardom.

Because this movie precisely talks about that nowhere, a place in the woods of Talihina, in Oklahoma, where the Followill clan and friends is based, and to where the now most famous members of the family, the KOL, goes for the yearly, traditional gathering. That's the premise of the documentary, a premise that soon reveals itself as much more. It's basically the foundation of the film, as the story of the band cannot be told without it. As the information note of the Festival says (wisely this time) "you can take the boys out of Oklahoma, but you can never take Oklahoma out of the boys". That's exactly what "Talihina Sky" is about.

Films that goes deep in the origins of a band or artist are not unusual. Many of them are also capable of portraying convincingly that, despite the fame, money or/and prestige they may have now, the artist or the group had a very hard beginnings, far from the glamour. But not many, very few if we have in mind director Stephen C. Mitchell is a friend of the band, and the Kings of Leon themselves are executive producers of the film, are as revealing, sometimes without hiding the ugliness, as "Talihina Sky".

The documentary shows with determination and few barriers the extremes that define the KOL story, a series of deep, brutal contrasts between being massively acclaimed as a band while, at home, behaving or being what it is (derogatory slang) usually considered as white trash or a redneck. That dichotomy affects the members of the band, in particularly Caleb Followill, singer and probably most popular band member. We see how difficult is at times for him (and the band) to deal with the personal contradictions they face. It also explains clearly some of the turbulent times the band (and again, Caleb) has recently faced.

Their rural blood and deep roots are, without a doubt, a quite terrible (always religion) pressure for the three Followill brothers and their cousin Matthew, fated to follow the nomad (and miserable) life of extreme right conservative preachers they father gave them, until music saved them. While they climb to indie-rock glory we are allowed to see how the band behaved as silly kids making use of the rock clichés to finally rebel themselves against their past (drugs, alcohol, sex, but also politics and life-style) and family. But at the same time they somewhat suffer from being in that position (everybody knows guilt is one of the most powerful tools religion has). They are saved from that past, but that doesn't mean their past is not there.

One could say that struggle doesn't give a lot of time to Mitchell to talk about the music itself, or that there's a happy tone that prevails, kind of a gentle portray of the Followill and the people that surrounds them, understandable as these are the people they love. But in my opinion these are minor aspects and the documentary has to be praised as very honest, and quite brave portray of human beings that have to deal with many contradictions (don't we all have some?), some of them huge in the case of KOL. An absorbing film, that will appeal fans and non-fans of the band equally. And that's fantastic for a music documentary.

SCORE: 7,75/10

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