The poignant 2008 rock documentary “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” which dramatically changed the band’s fortunes and could be a game-changer for music documentaries at the Oscars, returns to theaters 13 years after after his release.
Taking a first-hand look at the works of the Canadian metal band that would never go away, director and former teenage Anvil roadie Sacha Gervasi won the 2010 Emmy for best arts and culture program. Other awards include the 2010 Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary and the Audience Award for Best Film at the Dublin International Film Festival (2009). It is tied for sixth place as one of the highest rated documentaries of all time on Rotten Tomatoes, with a Fresh Critical Rating of 98% and an Audience Voted Score of 90%.
Despite universal acclaim, “it wasn’t even shortlisted for the Academy Awards,” says Gervais, “there was a lot of ‘wait, what happened?’ very specific. Basically, a 78 year old man [votante de la Academia] saw [el cantante y guitarrista Steve Kudlow] Lips playing his Flying V guitar with a dildo at the start of the movie, he stopped watching it, unsubscribed the movie and never made it to another round,” he says.
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In 2009, Indie Wire reported that 89 documentaries qualified for the Documentary Feature category for the 82nd Academy Awards, and “among the most notable omissions were ‘Anvil! The Story of Anvil,’ along with ‘The September Issue,’ ” It may Get Loud,’ and ‘Capitalism: A Love Story,’ by Michael Moore.”
Gervasi, who has since directed 2012’s “Hitchcock” and 2012’s “My Dinner With Hervé,” says the film’s popularity opened the door for music documentaries about lesser-known people. . “In the end, there were so many fans of ‘Anvil!’ that they felt it was unfair that the film wasn’t selected, let alone shortlisted, that the uproar, at least from what I heard, was what caused them to change the rules.”
“We got a ton of love,” recalls the filmmaker. “I remember one distributor walking out crying saying, ‘I love your film, but I have no idea how to sell it.
In 2013, “when ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ won the Academy Award [al mejor largometraje documental], the producer called me the next day to thank me. He said to me like ‘Anvil!’ it basically fell out of favor, in about five years there was this rule change.”
In 2014, “20 Feet From Stardom”, about the life of background singers, won the prize for the best documentary film. In 2015, “Amy” won the same award, and in subsequent years, the streaming service saw “Laurel Canyon,” “The Velvet Underground,” “Fanny,” “Show Me the Picture: The Jim Marshall Story” and many others. Unconventional music documentaries flooded the screens and won awards.
In an interview before the screening of “Anvil!” on September 13 in New York, presented by actor Peter Dinklage and featuring Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner, Gervasi recounted the fortuitous trajectory of the film’s initial spark and subsequent re-release.
After losing track of his ’80s friends Anvil, he reconnected with them in 2005: “I found out that Anvil had made nine or 10 records that I’d never heard of. And they were just in pub in Quebec in front of about 100. people,” and had Kudlow visit him in Malibu: “I picked him up at the airport and he was wearing the same Scorpions jersey as the last time I saw him, literally. There was no change.”
The singer told Gervasi about his plans for the next album Anvil: “He is very excited. He keeps believing,” the director recalls. “At first I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is so sad,’ but by the end of the weekend, I was like, ‘I love the spirit – even if it’s gone to shit – don’t give up .'”
A subsequent release and a band lunch at the Toronto film festival with producer and friend Rebecca Yeldham prompted him to say, “I hate heavy metal. More than ten years after producing ‘Anvil!’ (and Gervasi’s godson) Rio Hanson started watching the film with his teenage friends, they became obsessed, which inspired the idea of releasing the film in theaters for a new generation.
Other fans include Jimmy Page, Paul McCartney and Keanu Reeves, who presented the film at a screening in London. Cameron Crowe, Ryan Gosling and John Mayer are also fans. Dustin Hoffman saw “Anvil!” often at the Nuart in Los Angeles. (When Kudlow and Reiner met Hoffman, after talking to the actor for a bit, they asked Gervasi, “He’s the guy from ‘Papillion, right?’) New York Q&A moderator Dinklage noted that Gervasi and the group shared the qualities of “loyalty and perseverance.”
Unlimited access to a topic is what any documentarian wants, but rarely gets. But Anvil trusted Gervasi, who told them that the film had to be funny, “because, by the way, they’re fucking funny,” he says. He explained to them that if the film worked, “the audience will laugh at you in the first 15 minutes. But at the end, there is a big twist.” “The story of Anvil” “represents the reality of life for most musicians,” says Gervasi, “because the 1% make it, the rest don’t, either give up or are sensitive enough not to mention.”
Not to be outdone, Anvil and the film’s “Hope is eternal” message earned standing ovations at the New York screening. Afterward, Kudlow reflected on the comfort he deserves when he left his day job in school reform – after age 50 – to pursue his passion for music.
Since “Anvil!” The band has opened for AC/DC, loved superstars like Metallica and Guns N’ Roses’ Slash, and is living the life he dreamed of since the late 70s. Kudlow 66, endlessly exuberant and emotional, says it was difficult for him to see Anvil’s hard life on the big screen again. But now, the conclusion of the opposition is, “the shitty day jobs are over. I have endless employment, until I don’t want to do it anymore.”
Utopia will release the remastered version of “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” together with Portobello Electric in theaters on September 27th. The Los Angeles premiere will be Sept. 22 at the Saban Theater, featuring a live concert by Anvil and a question-and-answer session with Kudlow, Robb, Yeldham and Gervasi, moderated by Steve-O of “Jackass.”