American Cinematheque to Host Return of Allison and Tiffany Anders’ ‘Don’t Knock the Rock’ Film Festival

Throughout the early 2000s, the rock ‘n’ roll film festival “Don’t Knock the Rock” was one of the highlights of any L.A.-based cinephile’s year, an impeccably assembled program of movies, live performances, and panels celebrating the intersection between rock ‘n’ roll and cinema. Created by writer-director Allison Anders (creator of three of the greatest movies about music ever made — “Border Radio,” “Grace of My Heart,” and “Sugar Town”) and music supervisor Tiffany Anders (who possesses the best taste in television as the curator of songs for “Reservation Dogs,” “Beef,” and “PEN15”), “Don’t Knock the Rock” was beloved for its determination to showcase difficult-to-see music documentaries and for the breadth and depth of its programming.

The festival last graced L.A. screens in 2016, but now it’s returning to Hollywood via the American Cinematheque with a line-up that’s one of the best ever. From May 23-27, “Don’t Knock the Rock” will screen an eclectic mix of documentaries, music-themed narrative films, and essential retrospective programs at the Cinematheque’s Los Feliz venue, with an added virtual component that will stream from May 23-July 31. Among the highlights of the live edition will be the Los Angeles premieres of “Born Innocent: The Redd Kross Story,” a documentary making the case for Redd Kross as the seminal West Coast band of the last half century; “Swamp Dogg Gets His Pool Painted,” a portrait of cult musician Swamp Dogg; and “Dory Previn: On My Way to Where,” a documentary exploring the complex life and legacy of one of the great singer-songwriters of her era. Ethan Coen and Tricia Cooke’s acclaimed documentary “Jerry Lee Lewis — Trouble in Mind” will also be screening during the festival.

The 2024 incarnation of “Don’t Knock the Rock” also includes some not-to-be-missed revival programming, including two Susan Seidelman classics (“Smithereens” and “Desperately Seeking Susan”), the return of a crowd favorite from the first year of the festival (“This Is the Life”), and “Rock and Roll High School” director Allan Arkush’s musical comedy masterpiece “Get Crazy.” The festival will also include a rare theatrical presentation of Juleen Compton’s 1966 gem “The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean,” an Ozark-set tale of the compromises required of a woman looking for a future in rock, and a matinee screening of the 1956 musical that gave the fest its name.

“Desolation Center,” a film about a series of Reagan-era guerrilla punk and industrial desert happenings in Southern California that are now recognized as the inspiration for Burning Man, Lollapalooza, and Coachella, and an extended 20th-anniversary edition of Ondi and David Timoner’s “Dig!” round out the program, and most of these films will be followed by discussions with the filmmakers and/or subjects. And the great thing about this year’s festival is that non-Angelenos will have a chance to partake, as Cineville‘s streaming platform will be presenting a virtual edition featuring over 30 movies. The streaming portion of the fest will include several titles from the live edition as well as additional selections on artists including The Monks, Donna Summer, and Buster Williams. The online festival will also include interactive Q&As with filmmakers and subjects with master classes, featured director collections, panel discussions, and more. It all promises a glorious return for a festival that’s been absent from the scene for far too long.

“Don’t Knock the Rock” will screen at the American Cinematheque from May 23-27 and stream on Cineville from May 23-July 31.

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