SIFF documentary paints portrait of Bainbridge Island guitarist Bill Frisell

Grammy-winning guitarist and composer Bill Frisell normally stays out of the spotlight. A new documentary screening at the Seattle International Film Festival on Sunday, May 21, will offer a new look at the renowned artist both in and out of the recording studio.

In “Bill Frisell, A Portrait,” Australian director Emma Franz visits Frisell at his home on Bainbridge Island and during his rehearsals with the BBC Symphony. Frisell’s contemporaries — including Jim Hall, Paul Simon, Bonnie Raitt, Hal Willner and John Abercrombie — also discuss his contributions to the music world.

“My favorite part was having the opportunity to meet, listen to and learn from some great artists I have long admired,” Franz wrote in an email.

Franz, who is a professional musician herself, was introduced to Frisell by jazz musician Tony Scherr. She said she had always been fascinated by Frisell’s music and its effects on audiences, and she wanted to learn more about him.

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“I like his gentle personality and the fact that he doesn’t seek the limelight,” Franz wrote. “I am interested in nuance, and Bill, although interviewed many times over, still seemed elusive and intriguing to me.”

Franz said her background in music influenced how she made the film. She wanted it be as much about the creative process as about Frisell himself.

“It definitely influenced which aspects of Bill’s playing I sought out, the music I chose, being able to edit the music into multiple sections whilst (hopefully) enabling them to sound like a continuous piece,” Franz wrote.

Franz said local viewers will enjoy learning about Frisell, both as a local musician and an internationally renowned artist.

“This film was about…finding nuance in Bill’s ideas, personality and approach that might intersect with what comes through in his music, and elucidate why it resonates with so many people…

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