The documentary "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me," about the influential and critically lauded -- but commercially under-appreciated -- Memphis band has been a long time coming.
It was first broached in 2007 and picked up steam the following year, when writer-director Drew DeNicola came on board. But it was still slow going until 2010, when iconic frontman Alex Chilton died the week of a scheduled appearance at the South By Southwest Music + Media Conference, where Big Star's performance became an all-star tribute to the late musician.
"People might think we were cashing in on Alex's death," says DeNicola, who was in Texas that week to film the scheduled performance and a panel discussion dedicated to the band. "But after that, the resurgence just happened in waves. So we made a screener of the stuff we'd done (at SXSW) and posted it on Kickstarter and got more than twice the amount of money we were asking for."
DeNicola continued shooting in Big Star's home base of Memphis during the summers of 2010 and 2011, amassing an estimated 80-100 hours of footage that includes testimonials from admires such as R.E.M.'s Mike Mills and Michael Stipe, Matthew Sweet, the Lemonheads' Evan Dando, John Doe, the Meat Puppets' Curt Kirkwood and others. The film was shown at South By Southwest in 2012 and is finally getting a wide release this month.
"I think it's ultimately a story of redemption, and there is tragedy in that," DeNicola says of the film. "Big Star traded commercial success in their time for a lasting legacy; it's almost as if they purposefully did that. That's what we want to convey with this. I'm into storytelling; it's not journalism."
Drummer Jody Stephens, Big Star's sole surviving original member, says he's "thrilled" the project has finally come to fruition.
"It's not often you get somebody who spends three or four years documenting something you've done over a period of time," he notes. "It's an amazing visual scrapbook and...tells a pretty basic story of all of us getting together and just creating this music that we had a fascination with and the kind of remarkable time we had doing that.
"I don't know of anything quite like it, so if that's called redemption, that's awesome."
The Detroit area premiere of "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" takes place Wednesday, July 10, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5. Call 248-540-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com.
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