While describing his new movie on the Duluth band Low, Twin Cities filmmaker Philip Harder compared it to a masterful 2014 fictitious film by Texas director Richard Linklater rather than one of the many great rock documentaries of late.
"It's like 'Boyhood' in a lot of ways," Harder said.
"We see them starting out as just kids, really. And then we get to see them grow and evolve over the course of many years — and hear the music grow and change so dramatically alongside them."
Where Linklater famously followed around the stars of his film for 12 years, Harder put in almost 30 years with the subjects of "Cue the Strings: a Film About Low" — screening Friday and Saturday at the Main Cinema as part of the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival.
The movie is mostly a compilation of the music videos Harder made with the Duluth trio going back to 1993 and on up to 2022. Interview segments with the band members are interspersed, though, as is footage from Low's final performance last September at the Water Is Life Festival in Duluth.
A sad fact that will not be lost on any Low fans who see the movie — but actually is never mentioned on screen — is that the band's co-vocalist and drummer, Mimi Parker, died of cancer just two months after that final benefit concert.
"They were doing it for the cause, not for themselves, and it just shows how brave Mimi was," Harder said. "She sounds great in the footage. She looks great. She played great. There's a lot of power in it. I'm really happy their fans will get to see that."
That footage was one of the main reasons Harder wanted to show his movie at MSPIFF and got the blessing and cooperation of her husband and bandmate Alan Sparhawk to do so. It helped that he had such a long history with the band.
Harder was hired to direct Low's first music video back in 1993 for "Words," a stunning black-and-white video that shows the band members pushing a rowboat across a frozen Lake Superior in 30-below temperatures.
"It was insanely cold, and the camera kept freezing up," the director recalled. "So we'd shoot for 15 minutes or so, then go back to the van and try to thaw out.
"It paid off. That experience changed my life as a filmmaker."
Harder went on to direct music videos for bigger-name artists such as Prince, the Foo Fighters, Liz Phair and Hilary Duff. He also recently helmed his first feature film, 2019's "Tuscaloosa."
Through it all, he always eagerly made his way back to working with Parker and Sparhawk. One draw, he said, was the widely held opinion that Low's music "was so damn cinematic on its own." Also, he loved how their music "evolved over such a long, impressive, slow burn."
"The more aggressive their music got, the more aggressive the filmmaking got," Harder said.
"I don't know of any bands that worked with one director through their whole career. That relationship between filmmaker and band is part of the story. And I think it's a pretty wonderful story."
Cue the Strings: a Film About Low
When: 7:10 p.m. Fri.; 4:20 p.m. Sat. with preshow Q&A at 2 p.m. and reception at 5:30.
Where: The Main Cinema, 115 SE. Main St., Mpls.
Tickets: $15, mspfilm.org.