Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback is a 2006 film directed by Dietmar Post and Lucia Palacios about the seminal German-American beat band The Monks. The film was shot on location in the USA and Germany between 1997 and 2002. In 2008 the filmmakers obtained the German TV Oscar, the Adolf Grimme Awards.
After the Beatles conquered the world, America responded with the Monkees, a friendlier version playing Brill Building hits. Inversely, in Germany, a pair of avant-garde geniuses (Walther Niemann and Karl-H. Remy) conceptualized the monks, a group of bizarre anti-Beatles who would write their own dark minimalist rock. The gifted band, a group of five Americans who had recently finished their U.S. military service at a German base, had honed its skills by playing up to 40 hours a week in the same beat clubs that provided the Beatles’ training. The musicians’ new managers dressed them in black, shaved their heads like monks, provided them with a series of manifestos, and coached them to reconfigure their band to feature tribal drumming, feedback and electric banjo. Somehow, this resulted in one of the greatest albums in rock history. Despite experimenting with minimalism, tension and antipop sensibilities (backup vocals are sung in creepy unison instead of sweet harmony), the record is danceable and joyous.
One of the most fascinating aspects of monks - the transatlantic feedback is seeing the five contemporary monks discussing the history they had all buried upon
returning to America in 1967, after the band’s dissolution. Larry Clark, the Chicago-bred R&B keyboardist, won’t allow himself to attach any significance to
his work with the monks. Absurdly, of the five articulate interviewees, only guitarist and lead singer Gary Burger is willing to attribute political significance to the Vietnam lyrics in their theme song. With this lack of singular vision, it’s not surprising that the filmmakers framed their story by focusing on the conceptualists’ vision.
(Jake Austen, Time Out Magazine, 2006)
The film was well received by critics. Chris Morris of The Hollywood Reporter
named it a "penetrating and loving documentary". Dennis Harvey of Variety
praised that "helmers do a vivid job etching the creatively fervid times, with an editing style whose dynamism echoes that of Monk music". New York critic and John Cage expert Richard Kostelanetz compared monks - the transatlantic feedback
with the documentary film "Comedian Harmonists" (1976) by Eberhard Fechner
Comeback, first German live show after 40 years and a tribute record
In conjunction with the film play loud! productions initiated a double CD tribute record by the title silver monk time
- a tribute to the monks. This record served as financial support to the film and was released officially on October 23, 2006 at the famous Volksbühne in Berlin (Germany). At the same event the film was premiered to a full house. play loud! also had invited The Monks and some special guests from "silver monk time". For The Monks it was their first live performance in Germany for almost 40 years. After the film screening The Monks were received with standing ovations by a frenetic audience. Special guest musicians Mark E. Smith
(The Fall), The Raincoats
, Schorsch Kamerun
(Goldenen Zitronen) and Peter Hein (Fehlfarben) celebrated together with The Monks their comeback. Among the audience were also some of the old collaborators, such as, Walther Niemann, Wolfgang Gluszczewski and Jimmy Bowien.
Since the completion of filming in 2002 three of the film's protagonists have passed away:
-In 2004 Roger Johnston, the drummer of the Monks.
-In 2005 Charles Paul Wilp, who tried to convince the Monks to perform his outstanding music for Afri Cola.
-In 2008 Dave Day Havlicek, the banjo player of the Monks.
- 2006 - Leeds Film Festival (Audience Pick)
- 2006 - Hessischer Filmpreis (Nomination for Best Documentary)
- 2007 - San Francisco Berlin & Beyond Festival (2. Audience Award)
- 2007 - Würzburger Filmtage (Audience Award Best Documentary)
- 2007 - Milan Doc Festival (Best Editing)
- 2008 - Adolf Grimme Awards (Best Directing and Best Script)