No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers (4 stars)

No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers

Elizabeth Marcus' insightful film disabuses numerous notions about the band

'We've sold millions of albums, and nobody knows who we are,' says Manic Street Preachers drummer Sean Moore in Elizabeth Marcus' excellent documentary about the Welsh band. It may sound churlish, but the film gives credence to his lament; whatever you think you know about the band known as the Manics, you're probably wrong.

Formed in 1986, the Manics had a single ambition: make one album, sell 16 million copies and then split up. Almost 30 years on, the band – consisting of vocalist James Dean Bradfield, bassist Nicky Wire and drummer Moore, following the disappearance of lyricist and guitarist Richey Edwards in 1995 – are still making music that delights their legions of fans.

Unlike most music docs, which turn to journalists and pundits for context, Marcus gives substantial voice to these outspoken fans – and not all is glowing praise. This candid approach provides a sense of intimacy, buoyed by the impressive access Marcus had over ten years of filming. Alongside the usual live and archive footage there are shots of the band at home, scenes of normality (and banality) in stark contrast to their reputation as po-faced purveyors of protest rock.

This is a characterisation the Manics acknowledge and debunk in a series of frank interviews, poking fun at their youthful dourness and embracing the age and experience that has mellowed their approach to music. They also speak at length about their career as a whole which, of course, includes Richey's disappearance. Marcus is careful not to be mawkish, treating this as a seminal moment that has shaped everything they've done since.

One of the biggest challenges faced by any documentary-maker is to craft a film that's accessible to an audience without pre-existing knowledge or love for their subject. With her personable approach, not to mention the coherent editing of a decade's worth of footage, debut director Marcus has fashioned a fascinating look at the creative process.

Selected release from Fri 30 Jan.

No Manifesto | Official Trailer

No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers

  • 4 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 1h 36min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Elizabeth Marcus
  • UK release: 30 January 2015

Excellent documentary about the Welsh band, with an unusually candid approach that gives voice to their fans, not all of whom are full of glowing praise. For their part, the Manics debunk their reputation as po-faced protest rockers in some frank but mellow interviews, resulting in a personable and fascinating film.