Dance music documentaries have flooded the scene with the genre’s rise to popularity. Beautiful and en-captivating films weave tales of the rise and fall of stardom, community, and hard work while educating EDM newbies of the men and women that pioneered a movement.
With COVID-19 and social distancing forcing everyone inside, now is as good a time as any to delve into the world of electronic music. These six documentaries offer a plethora of insight and entertainment.
This 2017 release by director Levan Tsikurishvili follows the life of Swedish DJ Avicii, from humble beginnings to his heartbreaking battle with depression. Avicii — whose full name is Tim Bergling — released three albums and a handful of tours during his career, which ended with his untimely death by suicide in 2018. Tsikurishvili followed Bergling around for several years to capture his life, experiences and thought process. With guest appearances by other big names such as David Guetta and Chris Martin, True Stories weaves a haunting tale of the darker side of fame.
Daft Punk Unchained (2015)
Anglo-French documentary Daft Punk Unchained follows the duo’s rise to fame and subsequent experiences in the world of electronic music. The film, directed by Hervé Martin-Delpierre, combines never-before-seen archive footage of exclusive interviews and other clips with important figures in the community, such as Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. Interestingly, no new footage was made for the entire film.
This Was Tomorrow (2015)
Wim Bonte’s captivating documentary delves into Tomorrowland, a legendary electronic music festival held annually in Belgium, with branches in Brazil and the United States as well. The festival, which began in 2005, stretches two weekends and boasts an incredible lineup of the best electronic artists in the world.
The film highlights the festival’s tenth anniversary as viewers learn the importance of electronic music, festivals, and community on all three continents through beautiful stories from both the people attending and the musicians performing.
Paris is Burning (1990)
Beautiful, memorable, and enchanting, Paris is Burning captures a snapshot in time of Manhattan’s LGBT ballroom culture. Filmed in the late 80s, the documentary explores New York’s ball (or drag) competitions and their specific criteria. Told from the perspective of the drag queens themselves, New York’s African-American and Hispanic gay men pave the way for the Rupaul’s Drag Race of today.
What We Started (2017)
Bert Marcus and Cyrus Saidi’s documentary details generations of electronic dance music while focusing on the juxtaposition of big names Martin Garrix and Carl Cox; Cox finishing a whirlwind career and Garrix just staring out. Rare footage, interviews, and famous musicians like Ed Sheeran and Usher make this feel-good film a must-watch.
Lastly, this Grammy-nominated documentary explores the dual lives of Steve Aoki as both a Japanese patriarch and as a legendary producer and DJ. Described as a “fine look into the life of Steve Aoki, exposing both the positives and negatives in his life,” I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead combines artist and family interviews to paint a beautiful picture of a man’s rise to stardom.