SXSW Movie Review: Nerdcore Rising

Nerdcore is rising, haven’t you heard? If you’ve ever played Magic: The Gathering or World of Warcraft or visited the cult-ish website Penny Arcade, you might have some idea as to what Nerdcore actually is — the nerdy hip-hop sub-genre that is sweeping the nation, but mostly just the web.

At the center of the Nerdcore movement is MC Frontalot, the subject of Negin Farsad’s electrifying and arresting documentary Nerdcore Rising. Frontalot is known to his peeps as the godfather of the Nerdcore movement, a style of hip-hop dedicated to sick beats, expressing the nerd culture and of course, proper grammar. In Rising, we follow Frontalot and his musical entourage as they travel across America on their first ever national tour.

Along the way, we see the band interact with all sorts of fans, ranging from the casual on-looker to the die hard groupie (yes, they had one) until they finally reach Seattle, Washington to play in front of over 7,000 geeks, nerds and outcasts at the Penny Arcade Expo. It is a journey that we happily experience with the subjects, as they are some of the most charming and interesting folks we’ve seen on screen in a while.

Yet, a documentary cannot survive purely on interesting subjects alone. Director Negin Farsad and co-director/producer Kim Gatewood succeed beautifully by combining the footage from the tour with commentary from hip-hop industry insiders like Prince Paul (producer of De La Soul), ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic and comedian Brian Posehn (The Sarah Silverman Show). They capture not only the world of MC Frontalot, who is one of the most dynamic and outlandish figures in all of music, but also the underground, independent movement of Nerdcore music that has risen up because of his popularity.

As well, the filmmakers mix in some very cool animations that accompany the musical performances, making sure not to linger on any one particular performance from the tour. It is a well-edited, wonderfully presented look at a movement that speaks to everything geek. If you’ve played Magic: The Gathering, World of Warcraft, made Wookie noises or have ever been accused of being a geek, nerd or loser — this is your soundtrack and this is certainly your movie. As one fan observes in the film, Nerdcore is “like playing Halo while getting a blow job from Hello Kitty at the same time.” And if that’s your thing, you absolutely should not miss this film. Despite its silliness, Nerdcore Rising is one of the most engaging, fulfilling experiences that I’ve had thus far at SXSW. If you do anything this year to feed your inner geek, make it a point to check out this wonderful doc.

Grade: A

Nercore Rising is directed by Negin Farsad and co-produced by Kim Gatewood, Andrew Mendelson and Victor Varnado. It made its world premiere on Sunday March 9th at the SXSW Film Festival. For more information about the film (including tons of awesome clips), check out www.nerdcorerising.com.

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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