Beck, Ed Ruscha, and Leon Russell in YBCA's “Everything but Christmas Music” Music Movie Series

Joel Shepard, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' film and video curator, recently married a woman from the Philippines. Over the years visiting her there, he says he heard a lot of Christmas music. A whole lot.

“They start blasting it everywhere starting in September,” he said.

For those tired of little drummer boys and red-nosed reindeers, the music movie series Everything But Christmas that Shepard put together for the YBCA in December will instead offer options such as Thai music, Latin boogaloo, industrial noise, and the renowned Les Blank’s previously unreleased documentary on Leon Russell. This is a good choice for the last month of the year, Shepard thinks.

“December is a bad month to show serious European art films,” he said. “This is a nice cluster of new music films that is sort of an antidote to Christmas music.”

A Poem is a Naked Person
Bay Area filmmaker Blank’s documentary on Russell was made in the '70s and never released. Shepard says when Blank died last year, his son got involved in restoring it.

“It’s great portrait of an artist,” he said. “It’s a fascinating, kind of spontaneous, loose portrait, not a glowing one. It’s very down to earth.”

Another film in the series, Station to Station, consists of 62 one-minute films, which include Beck singing with a gospel choir in the Mojave desert and artist Ed Ruscha talking about modern landscape.

Doug Aitken took a train across the U.S and made stops and had big art events,” Shepard said. “There are these big name artists involved, and it’s sort of like a kaleidoscope.”

Other movies in the series include We Like it Like That: The Story of Latin Boogaloo; Industrial Soundtrack for the Urban Decay, about industrial music and noise, featuring bands like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, and Y/our Music, documenting Thai music from pop to traditional to labor songs to urban indie.

Shepard says these movies have little in common with each other other than being about music and being thoughtful and entertaining.

“I like things all over the place,” Shepard said. “It’s not super interesting for me to do a blues series or something. I hope people will be adventurous and go draw outside the lines a little.”

Music Movies: Everything but Christmas Music, Dec. 3–20, $8-$10, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Screening Room
, 701 Mission, 415-978-2700.

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