Take a look at some of the greatest documented moments of festival history!
If you’re a festival aficionado like the rest of us at Festival Sherpa, we recommend investing some time into watching festival documentaries. While the greatest documentaries leave you with a serious case of FOMO, they also give you an intimate and uninhibited glimpse into the culture and community of the festival. Take a look at The Sherp’s picks of the lot.
1. Monterey Pop (1968)
Dubbed as one of the greatest films to capture the concert culture of the ’60s, Monterey Pop is a documentary about the famous music festival Monterey Pop Festival, directed by D. A. Pennebaker. This three-day festival was enormous, seeing upto 90,000 estimated attendees, and performances by the likes of Ravi Shankar, Jimi Hendrix and a very drunk Janis Joplin’s first large-scale festival. Embodying the Californian counterculture, this festival is said to be one of the most relevant events in the pre-Woodstock era. In this amiable documentary, you can expect to see a very young and undeniably talented Art Garfunkel, a very sassy Jimi Hendrix – totally killing it, and much more.
2. Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music (1970)
Probably one of the most famous festival documentaries out there, Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music is everything you could hope for and more. Edited by a youthful Martin Scorsese, this is the film that won director Michael Wadleigh an Academy Award. Woodstock documents the most famous rock concert of all time — and one of the defining events of the 1960s. It’s been exactly 46 years since the world’s most iconic festival took place in the quaint countryside of Bethel Woods, New York. A festival so famous and important that it has often been referred to as a turning point in the counterculture revolution of the ’60s.
3. Shortcut to Nirvana: Kumbh Mela (2004)
As far as cultural festivals go, the Kumbh Mela is the largest Hindu gathering of pilgrims in the world. The festival, which takes place during an auspicious time every three years, is celebrated at different locations depending on the position of the planet of Bṛhaspati (Jupiter) and the sun. Pilgrims to this festival come from all walks of life ranging from Naga Babas, Sadhus and regular Indian families who are great devotees who seek soul cleansing. Shortcut to Nirvana explores and displays the many cultural and social facets of this festival in just under an hour and a half. The documentary takes a voyage of discovery through this colourful gathering via the eyes of several pilgrims/travellers, as well as an ebullient young Hindu monk, Swami Krishnanand. Take a look at the trai;er below.
4. Running With Bulls (2012)
Pamplona’s famous bull-fighting festival, San Fermin, is a part of Spanish culture in the most intimate manner. With an immense historical background, the festival has stood its ground for centuries. Even though various protests have sprung up around the world over the number of death caused at the festival, and the animal cruelty, it hasn’t stopped people from showing up in thousands every year. As this controversial festival continues, so does the talk around it. Running With Bulls explores the danger, exuberance and thrill rooted deep into the traditions of this festival. Showing both the thrilling and gruesome facets of the cultural festival, this documentary is definitely one of the more gory ones.
5. Spark: A Burning Man Story (2014)
Burning Man, the festival of large arid spaces and eclectic creative expression is a space for uninhibited display of personal belief. From idiosyncratic burlesque outfits to nudity, every dress is sacrosanct. A freedom of life as is not awarded elsewhere is the essential belief of Burning Man, allowing festivals attendees to adapt to its wayward, mind-above-body spirit. This moving and magical documentary will leave you with major FOMO. If you’re one of the people who’ve had Burning Man on their bucket list for quite some time now, this movie is for you. Capturing the chaotic and larger-than-life essence of the festival on the playa, this is one of the few video representations of the counterculture festival that does it any justice. Take a look at the electrifying trailer below.
6. Under The Electric Sky (2014)
Under the Electric Sky is an immersive 3D documentary exploring the allure of the EDM phenomenon told through the experiences of six different groups among the nearly 350,000 festival goers attending the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) 2013 in Las Vegas. Combining those personal stories along with performances by Fatboy Slim, Kaskade, Dillon Francis, Afrojack, Above & Beyond, Armin Van Buren, Avicii, and Tiësto, directors Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz bring the event to life by going behind the scenes to show what it takes to stage one of the biggest parties in the known universe. They chronicle the unique journeys of individual attendees from different walks of life, all of whom share one common desire — to shed their inhibitions and immerse themselves in this judgment-free celebration of life and music.
7. No Cameras Allowed (2014)
Marcus Haney is someone who has managed to get into festivals without tickets, making fake press passes and somehow ends up on the main stages kicking back with his favourite bands, including scoring some pretty fantastic footage on his camera. He’s claimed to have been to almost fifty music festivals all over the world, sneaking in, getting past main-stage security, capturing stuff on his cam…and eventually getting kicked out. But all is not in vain, as he managed to catch the attention of his most beloved bands with his videos – namely Mumford & Sons (who later invited him on their tours). Professionally Marcus works for HBO, shooting and creating music videos. Which is probably where the immense interest in festivals come from. According to the interview, he’s snuck into festivals like Coachella and Glastonbury in the craziest way possible, like hand gliding in and sleeping underneath trailers. With fours years’ worth of footage, Marcus takes us on his incredible journey in No Cameras Allowed.
8. Festival: A Documentary Film (2015)
Following seven different people with seven different stories as they journey through a three-day festival, it examines their varied experiences, as well as festival culture as a whole. The film’s director and executive producer, Mark Raspatello explains why this documentary is special, “This isn’t a concert film or a behind-the-scenes look at any one festival. It neither vilifies nor glorifies the festival industry. This is a collection of stories from real individuals, a snapshot of what happens when 100,000 people descend on a festival weekend.” The documentary also promises never-before-seen clips of HAIM, Duke Dumont, and Benny Benassi, along with cameos from industry veterans, journalists, historic segments about Newport Folk and Monterrey Jazz, and archival video of festivals past, such as Lollapalooza 1.0 and Woodstock ’99.