By Liz Lopez
The German director, Thorsten Schütte, premiered his documentary Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words at the Sundance Film Festival this year, a film about the musician, composer, filmmaker and family man who is remembered through archival materials. Schütte used interviews, concerts and behind-the-scenes footage as an overview of a multi-various career by one of rock’s star musicians. For those people (like me) who did not follow his art and career when we were young (aside from the fact that he was older), the documentary provides an insight into what he believed and how he proceeded to create his art, no matter how odd it was considered by the established industry and society.
There are so many things he states in the interviews that seem to resonate with issues that people are currently bringing up. Although many people were against what he did and said, he sought to have a life his way and not by the standards others wanted to dictate. He forged ahead and had dedicated fans, no matter what he had to confront. The self-taught composer and multi-instrumentalist is highly regarded in Europe and it was there where his classical compositions were welcomed before he died of prostate cancer in 1993, at age 52.
One favorite scene close to the beginning of the film is when a 23 year old Zappa makes an appearance on the syndicated “Steve Allen Show” as he creates sounds from an adapted bicycle, accompanied by the studio band. Another is when there is footage of the time when Tipper Gore and federal representatives are pushing for certain things and Zappa felt it was trying to censor the artists, so he pushed back.
The interviews included in the documentary cover various decades and are from different countries. Although he did not appear to look as if he really wanted to participate and respond to questions during the interviews, he was always articulate in his opinions about varied subjects. He was very vocal about the music industry he thought was not in business for the music.
Not only did Zappa create his own music outside of the “industry”, he expanded his skills with new technologies to produce his own and other artists’ records. In the film when an interviewer asks him to define his job, Zappa simply responds: “I’m an entertainer.”
This is considered by some to be “a long-overdue documentary” on Frank Zappa. There is a forthcoming Zappa documentary by Alex Winter in the works and after viewing this film, I look forward to learning more about this artist.
The film is rated R and has a run time of 90 minutes. The film opens in Austin on July 15th at Regal Arbor.