Rockers leaping from stage to screen


Complete Berlinale coverage

BERLIN -- With piracy cutting into CD sales and exploding ticket prices for big concerts keeping many fans at home, a growing number of pop artists are discovering the power of the silver screen to reach their audiences.

The rocking began Day 1 at the Berlin International Film Fest with Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones concert film "Shine a Light." It was the first time a concert movie has ever kicked off an A festival, and it delivered the wildest red carpet Berlin has ever seen.

Next on the bill was Neil Young with his politically motivated documentary "CSNY: Deja Vu," which follows the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young "Freedom of Speech Tour" in the U.S.

Patti Smith also put her songs onscreen with the highly personal documentary "Dream of Life," directed by photographer Steven Sebring.

And the music just didn't stop. Cult band Gorillaz stepped out of the dark in Ceri Levy's documentary "Bananaz," and no-name Iraqi metalheads got their moment in the sun in Eddy Moretti and Suroosh Alvi's "Heavy Metal in Baghdad."

Today, Berlin gets a peek at the cinematic performance of one of the world's biggest music stars when Madonna's feature debut, "Filth and Wisdom," bows in Panorama.

None of the Berlinale's rock stars want to quit their musical day jobs for a film career. But Neil Young, this month on tour through Europe, said mainstream documentaries like "CSNY: Deja Vu" can reach and move a bigger audience that the protest songs of old.

"I definitely believe that nowadays films have a bigger impact on the audience than music," Young told The Hollywood Reporter. "The days are gone that protest songs really mattered. The media seems to neglect them. Hopefully this film gets more attention."

Punk rocker Smith agrees with Young, arguing that information overload means a single song has little chance of breaking through the noise.

"With all the available technology information is now more spread out than ever. In the '60s, when Neil Young wrote "Ohio," all we had was the radio. No MTV, no magazines, no computers. But everyone in America heard his song on their radio."

The New York artist sees her film "Dream of Life" as a new way of getting the message across. "Film can be an important medium to reach people," she said.

While Young and Smith are using film as a vehicle for political or personal statements, the Scorsese Stones documentary "Shine a Light" focuses entirely on the music.

No other rock band has been better documented on film than the Rolling Stones. For guitarist Keith Richards this immense stock of footage, including the latest one by Martin Scorsese, has one big advantage.

"I do not have to keep a diary," Richards said. "If I want to see what I have been doing all of my life I can see it on film. Even the mistakes I made, like during a concert. Still I am not that comfortable at looking at myself on the big screen."

Richards has no definite plans to act again like he did playing Johnny Depp's dad in "The Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." But he isn't closing the door on a film career.

"If the right director comes along with the right project ... who knows?" he said.