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5 can't-miss music films at Sound Unseen 2016

A "cool" scene from "Arctic Superstar"

A "cool" scene from "Arctic Superstar" Provided

Looking for a way to lay low and forget about national affairs for the weekend? But can’t decide between, say, a movie or a punk show? The 17th annual Sound Unseen -- a film festival for music lovers -- has you covered and then some.

And if you’re too anguished even to sort through the fest's schedule, fret not: We’ve got you covered on that score. Here are five solid bets for Sound Unseen 2016, which kicks off Thursday with an opening-night party featuring LOTT, Graveyard Club, and Whiskey Rock 'n' Roll Club at St. Paul's Amsterdam Bar & Hall.

A Fat Wreck

A Fat Wreck is a documentary about NOFX bassist and pop-punk lifer Fat Mike, who founded the legendary California independent label Fat Wreck Chords. In addition to interviews with members of Against Me!, Propagandhi, Pennywise, and others, the film also features puppet-based dramatizations of moments from Fat Wreck Chords’ history. There's a free after-party on Saturday at Triple Rock that will follow the NOFX concert down the block at Cabooze. (5 p.m. Nov. 12 at McNally Smith College of Music)

Arctic Superstar

Arctic Superstar follows the rapper SlinCraze (aka Nils Rune Utsi), a member of the Sami indigenous group in Scandinavia. He’s from a tiny town in Norway’s Arctic north, and fewer than 20,000 people speak his language. But, as Arctic Superstar’s synopsis for the festival puts it, “his dream is to make a living from his music and maybe even become world famous.” The film is the rare music doc that looks like it could be a jumping off point for conversations about everything from globalization to ethnic identity to linguistics, which is pretty impressive for one struggling rapper’s tale. (9 p.m. Nov. 10 at Trylon Microcinema)

Donnie Darko and Southland Tales with writer/director Richard Kelly 

2001's Donnie Darko is a classic, and 2006's Southland Tales is becoming a cult classic. At Sound Unseen you can see both films with their writer and director, Richard Kelly, in attendance. They’re not explicitly about music, but Donnie Darko makes a ton of sense for the fest: Its soundtrack is inextricable from its mood, and it has some of the greatest music cues of all time. (Donnie Darko: 10:15 p.m. Nov. 11 & 7 p.m. Nov. 12 at Trylon Microcinema; Southland Tales: 7 p.m. Nov. 11 & 9:45 p.m. Nov. 12 at Trylon Microcinema)

A Song For You: The ACL Story

Austin City Limits is the longest-running music program in TV history, and therefore, in this writer’s humble opinion, one of the longest-running beautiful things we’ve got. This doc following the show’s history (and presumably tossing in a lot of performance footage from across the years) looks to be one of the surest bets at Sound Unseen. (7:30 p.m. Nov. 11 at the McNally Smith College of Music)

Strike a Pose
I stumbled onto the Madonna documentary Truth or Dare in our basement years before I was ever comfortable enough with myself to admit that Madonna rules. I was also young enough that my memory of that film is basically just a blur of color and motion. But one thing still sticks out distinctly: Madonna’s backup dancers on the Blonde Ambition Tour of 1990, the tour documented in Truth or Dare. They are the life of the film. Strike a Pose catches up with those dancers today and takes a look at the complexities of coping with life after Madonna. (4:45 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at Bryant-Lake Bowl Theatre)

Sound Unseen
What: A film festival featuring more than a dozen music-focused selections. 
When: Nov. 9-13
Where: Various locations 
Tickets: $10-$15; click here for the full schedule of screenings and events