Danielson: a Family Movie is a documentary about unbridled creativity vs. accessibility, Christian faith vs. popular culture, underground music vs. survival, and family vs. individuality. The film follows Daniel Smith, an eccentric musician and visual artist, as he leads his four siblings and best friend Chris to indie-rock stardom. Beginning in 1995 when the youngest band member was 11 years old, the Danielson Famile performs in white, vintage nurse costumes to symbolize the healing power of the Good News, a recurring subject matter. Though tepidly received by the Christian music world, the South Jersey farmland-bred clan is widely embraced by the mainstream independent music community, written about in Rolling Stone, Spin, the New York Times and elsewhere as an outsider curiosity backed up by innovative, experimental music.
But as with other family acts, members of the band begin to seek out their own paths as they go through school and Daniel eventually faces the struggle to become viable as a solo act. Along the way he mentors an unknown singer-songwriter named Sufjan Stevens whose own subsequent success stands in stark contrast to the music world’s uneasy reception of Danielson just a few years prior.
Collage, observations, animation and memorable performances all contribute to this thoughtful and thought-provoking spectacle.
Produced, Directed, Filmed, Edited by JL Aronson
Running time: 105 min
Production dates: 2002-2005
World Premiere: SXSW Film Festival 2006
Cameos: Steve Albini, David Garland, Daniel Johnston, Rick Moody