LIFE AT THE MIKE
Byline: Marcy Medina
LOS ANGELES — As if Audrey Bernstein’s retro-cool karaoke parties and Gwyneth Paltrow’s crooning queen in “Duets” weren’t encouragement enough, karaoke has a new champion in one of the most anticipated entries in this year’s IFP/West Los Angeles Film Festival: “Karaoke Fever,” a documentary chronicling the lives of six karaoke contestants.
“Our normal experience with karaoke tends to involve a few drinks and a bar,” said co-director Arthur Borman, “but there’s a whole bunch of people who take it very seriously.” At this weekend’s festival, “Karaoke Fever” was awarded the most-coveted screening slot, Saturday’s midnight premiere. It can be seen in New York next month at TriBeCa’s First Look Film Festival.
“This film was especially appropriate to the festival,” said Dawn Hudson, president of IFP/West. “People who enter these contests are trying to realize their dreams, much like indie filmmakers. Plus, karaoke speaks for everyone’s urge to entertain and be entertained.”
The 90-minute documentary follows six contestants over four months of karaoke contests, from preliminary rounds to the state finals in which they compete for $15,000 and a recording contract. The digital video camera crews also ventured into their private lives — capturing them practicing routines in their backyards, shopping for costumes and revealing the reasons behind their romance with the microphone.
From a single mother of two who was jilted by her boyfriend — a fellow karaoke competitor whom she beat in a qualifying round — to a male housekeeper who overcame spina bifida and a cleft palate, it’s the characters who make the film compelling. “What attracted us to these six men and women was probably the same thing that attracted the judges and enabled them to make it to the finals,” explained co-director Steve Danielson.
Inevitably, the stories also make for a good laugh. “You begin to cheer these people on, but you also laugh at them. In many ways, it’s sheer comedy,” said Danielson.
In true indie spirit, Borman and Danielson weren’t put off by Paltrow beating them to the cinematic punch. “‘Duets’ came out while we were editing, and we thought, ‘Thank God, we did something different,”‘ said Danielson. “In this case, truth was stranger, and more interesting, than fiction.”