This intimate and eloquent documentary traces the unorthodox path of Daniel Smith- eccentric musician, visual artist and devout Christian- as he creates a musical phenomenon with siblings and friends under the name Daniels... more »on Famile, eventually struggling to realize his own identity as an artist once the family members begin their own adult lives. Along the way he mentors an unknown singer-songwriter named Sufjan Stevens, whose subsequent success stands in contrast to the music world's uneasy reception of Danielson just a few years earlier. Combining hybrid storytelling, essential live performances, animated sequences and a dollop of Danielson archives, director DL Aronson offers a provocative yet subtle look at a complex life outside the mainstream.Bonus features include over 2 hours of deleted and nearly lost scenes, audio commentary by DL Aronson and Vito Aiuto, 4 music videos, trailers, TV appearances, special prizes, fun and more!« less
"When I first heard about the Danielson Family I figured it was a joke. When I saw them I wasn't sure. A family that sings about god in rock clubs- with strong songs... This artfully developed and tastefully constructed film puts it all in perspective - and in the process give the viewer room to reflect on their own lives - and their relationship to their art/religion/work.
Why do we watch documentaries? Because we want to know more about other people or more about ourselves. Successful docs help us to understand both. As we see Daniel struggle to create work, and stay in touch with his vision, as he faces the realities of family and financial pressures- over the course of many years of filming- we are able to gain insight into our own struggles- it helped me to get a sense of context about my own life and work.
In addition- the songs are great- the animation sequences are stunning- and it all flows like milk into the mouths of babes.
Fantastic Portrayal, Excellent Documentary
Mister S. Black | pacnor, usa | 02/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Art and commerce, faith and culture. Danielson has seen the rift between both and the documentary bearing their name gives an intimate and honest look at how Daniel and his band of family and friends handle these difficulties. All is not conflicting, though, as Daniel has a loyal fanbase and he makes beautiful music throughout. Highly recommended to any fan of music documentaries and beautiful stories."
A must see film for fans of Indie music
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 05/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First, a personal note showing what a small world we live in. I had ordered DANIELSON on Netflix, not knowing that Sufjan Stevens plays a major role on the disc. So on Friday, before the disc arrived, I listened to ILLINOISE by Stevens and later that day watched the first three episodes of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. Why is that relevant? Because one of the episodes contains a really great cover of "Devil Town" by Daniel Johnston (it wasn't the Bright Eyes's cover from the Late, Great Daniel Johnston tribute album, but may have been based on it). So I was really cognizant of how all things on the planet can somehow converge in unexpected ways when both Stevens and Johnston popped up in DANIELSON: A FAMILY MOVIE.
As they note in the film, a lot of reviewers of their work feel compelled to define themselves before they go on to discuss the music. I am not alone in this, though in my case the self-definition comes from a different direction. I am a Christian so I am not put off or troubled by the content of the music of Daniel Smith. I simply have never been able to enjoy the music of Danielson, Brother Danielson, or the Danielson Familie. Ninety percent of it is Daniel Smith's voice. I find his screeching falsetto to be the most unlikable voice in music. This troubles me because I love the idea of the band, love all the people who are interviewed as human beings, and love the multiform character of Smith's artistic endeavors. But I just don't like his voice. It is what has kept me from liking any of Smith's projects. On the other hand, I am a big fan of Sufjan Stevens, whose soft, gentle, and pure voice allows the beauty of his songs to pour through. Smith's awkward falsetto acts more like a barrier to his music. I realize that this is a purely personal response. Many are not bothered by Smith's voice. I am and it serves as a hindrance to my enjoying their music. Which is a shame, because after seeing this film I like the concept of the Danielson Familie more than ever.
The film does a first rate story of telling the story of the band, which was formed as part of Smith's college thesis. It is a large family, the result of the marriage of a former nun and priest that encouraged their children to play around with music. The family soon began bringing in others, whether friends such as Sufjan Stevens and Chris Palladino, or new family members via marriage. As a fan of Sufjan Stevens, I found the film enormously illuminating for understanding his music better. Knowing now more about his involvement with Danielson it is easy to hear that project's influence on his own solo work. After watching this film and then listening to Stevens's albums they now sound like attempts to apply the aesthetic of that band to his own songs, and given that GREETINGS FROM MICHIGAN, SEVEN SWANS, and ILLINOISE all recorded in Daniel Smith's home studio, it might be difficult to underestimate the influence. Even if all those backup singers aren't the Danielson clan, the musical ideas are the same. I kept wondering during the film if they would deal both with the success of Steven's Illinois album or Danielson's SHIPS album. They do.
One thing I like about Daniel Smith and his siblings and Sufjan Stevens is the different picture that they present of Christians. On BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, the Cylon Sharon, who has changed sides because of her love for a human, tells her lover, "I've tried to show them that not all Cylons are alike, that we're not all murderers." Similarly, Smith and Stevens have shown that not all Christians are the same, we are not all close-minded, willfully stupid bigots who are no fun and intolerant and conservative. I doubt if Danielson has ever converted anyone to Christianity, but I suspect that they have done a world's of good in acting as good will ambassadors to the non-Christian world. What so many evangelicals don't understand is that they are the worst conceivable advocates for Christianity. What moderately intelligent person wants to belong to any club that Jerry Falwell, George Bush, Pat Robertson, Rick Santorum, or James Dobson belongs to? These are horrible people and if being a Christian means being like them, what are most people going to say? Speaking in New Testament terms, these people are "stumbling blocks," preventing most non-Christians from seeing anything positive about Christianity. But many people will be amazed that people who are actually fun and interesting like Stevens and Smith are Christians. As with Cylons, not all Christians are the same.
This DVD should be must viewing by anyone who is a fan of either Danielson or Sufjan Stevens. Given his huge success the past couple of years, Stevens probably has more fans at present. This album will explain where his music finds its roots. But really this should be seen by anyone who wants to learn about some of the most interesting musicians working today."
Purely pure genius.
Swift | 06/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Danielson and all things Danielson display creativity couched in belief and love for fellow man at its zenith. Listen to their music, understand that their message is unvarnished hope for all of us, regardless of who/how/what you believe."
T. ROHE | Fresno, CA | 06/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first came to know of the Danielson Familie through Tooth & Nail DVD of music videos. At first I was shocked and then mesmerized by their sound. I didn't think much of it at the time. Years later and a short time ago I bought Daneilson's newest album based on a review in Enteritainment Magazine. Again I was shocked and then mesmerized. The music grows on you and now I love it.
I love it now that I can share the story of his "vision" or the vision that God gave him and the familie who joined in for the ride. A great documentary that I am now showing all my friends. Check it out!!!!"