'A Band Called Death'
If you've seen both films, it will be difficult not to compare A Band Called Death to Searching for Sugar Man. The latter, an Oscar-winning documentary about forgotten folk singer Rodriguez, is eerily similar to the former.
Both chronicle the rediscovery of long-lost musical acts from Detroit, plucked from the dustbin of obscure musical history and given an unlikely second life decades after they were apparently forgotten. Resist the temptation if you can. The similarities are stunning, but the differences are what make A Band Called Death just as rewarding, albeit in another way, as Searching for Sugar Man.
While Sugar Man is as much about the staggering power of globalization as anything else, A Band Called Death is more purely about multi-generational family tragedy, and then triumph. It begins and ends with the Hackneys -- David, Bobby and Dannis -- three African-American brothers who formed a garage rock band that, as the New York Times hailed it, was "Punk Before Punk Was Punk."
Bucking the conventions of race, of the popular music being made in their own back yard (Motown), and even of mainstream rock at the time, the brothers flirted with fame and a record deal in the mid-1970s. Had they gone beyond flirtation, they would have introduced the world to the now-familiar punk genre several years before its seminal band, The Ramones.
Their name, Death, which David, the visionary of the trio, was unwilling to change, proved to be the hurdle that they could not clear on their way to a record deal, and so they split apart, their musical destiny not to be realized until years after David's death in 2000 when rare record collectors brought them back to prominence by sharing it online.
Before he died, David prophetically told his brothers that "the world would come looking for [their] music," and when it did, Bobby, Dannis and their children responded by giving it to the world now that is was finally ready for it, by fulfilling their brother/uncle's vision. As such, A Band Called Death isn't about the world finally waking up to a great, seemingly lost musical act. It's about music's ability to grant someone a slice of immortality. It's also about two brothers "standing" with a third even after he is gone.
This is infinitely more personal than Sugar Man and indeed most other films you will ever see. This isn't about mythmaking. It's about fulfilling a family member's dream long after his death. If it doesn't affect you on that level, you might want to check for a pulse.