Umbrella Entertainments proudly presents ZAPPA, the first all-access documentary on the life and times of iconoclastic musician Frank Zappa. Directed by Alex Winter (Bill of Bill & Ted, acclaimed maker of The Panama Papers, Deep Web and more), and produced by Winter and Glen Zipper (George Harrison: Living In the Material World, What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali and more), Zappa presents an intimate portrait of a late 20th Century iconoclast; a man whose prolific and brilliant work changed music and the music industry for ever, and whose cultural impact is far-reaching and enduring. With exclusive interviews and eye-popping unseen live and behind-the-scenes footage, Zappa will open your mind to the creativity and fearlessness of a man whose “worldview, art and politics were”, in Winter’s words, “far ahead of their time, and profoundly relevant in our challenging times.” The documentary will be released in Australia in cinemas February 18 2021.
Frank Zappa’s avant-garde music impacted contemporaries like the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and his high school friend Captain Beefheart. He was one of the first artists of the rock generation to incorporate modern classical music and ‘musique concrete’ into his work – he was a huge fan of modern composer Edgar Varèse – alongside the more standard influences of blues and R’n’B. He was in turn a major influence on subsequent composers as well as subsequent funk and jazz artists. His dissonance, absurdism and fearless rebelliousness influenced generations of underground music, including punk and post-punk, and he also helped invent comedy rock. His influence can be heard in the work of everyone from Devo to George Clinton to Public Image Ltd to Red Hot Chilli Peppers to John Zorn to Weird Al Yankovic to Radiohead.
In Australian music, Zappa’s impact can be felt in the music of artists ranging from Daddy Cool to King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.
Zappa also helped changed the thinking of generations, culturally and politically. His impact was felt as far away as Eastern Europe – his fearless free thinking helped inspire the peaceful revolution that gave birth to the Czech Republic, leading him to being that nation’s first ‘Special Ambassador to the West on Trade, Culture and Tourism’. He was actively opposed to censorship and helped shut down the PMRC, and he helped start the Rock The Vote movement, encouraging young people to vote. He hated the impact that commerce had on art, and so, after lampooning it, he decided to take matters into his own hands and look after the business and marketing sides of things himself, in partnership with his wife Gail, effectively becoming his own record company.
Frank Zappa wasn’t a “hit” artist. Yet he was an American icon and household name and a regularly-seen talking head unafraid to say things like “There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life”, “Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system”, “My best advice to anyone who wants to raise a happy, mentally healthy child is: keep him or her as far away from a church as you can” and “Government is the Entertainment division of the military-industrial complex”.
With unfettered access to the Zappa family trust and all archival footage – Winter explored thousands of hours of unreleased footage and hundreds of boxes of tape that had been literally locked away under the Zappa family home like a time capsule since Frank’s death in 1993 – ZAPPA explores the private life behind the musical career, and looks at his massive musical and cultural influence. Alex Winter’s assembly features appearances by Frank’s widow Gail Zappa and several of Frank’s musical collaborators including Mike Keneally, Ian Underwood, Steve Vai, Pamela Des Barres, Bunk Gardner, David Harrington, Scott Thunes, Ruth Underwood, Ray White and others.
ZAPPA will be released in Australia in cinemas February 18 2021.