We Sold Our Souls for Rock 'n Roll

Director: Penelope Spheeris

Institute History

  • 2001 Sundance Film Festival


Ozzy Osbourne has become the patron saint of heavy metal fanatics over the years. He is revered by and has been a huge inspiration for countless bands, and for almost 30 years, Black Sabbath has been performing its one-of-a-kind sound to head-banging audiences spanning generations. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the most successful rock-concert festival tour of the 1990s was the traveling circus known as Ozzfest.

We Sold Our Souls for Rock 'n Roll chronicles the 30-city adventure, with performances from Black Sabbath, Rob Zombie, Slipknot, Godsmack, and Slayer. The tour is a spectacle brilliantly conceived by Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy's wife and matriarch of the festivity. Along with supercharged musical performances from both industry icons and unknown bands alike, the film gives an inside look at a contemporary American rock culture that is peppered with fanatic religious protestors, freak shows, and jaw-dropping fans.

What sets the film apart from other concert documentaries is the ability of Penelope Spheeris to bring out the humanity and passion of the bands. Some of the most interesting parts of the film come from seeing Ozzy not so much as a rock God, but rather as an adoring husband and father who drinks special herbal concoctions and gets massages between sets.

Spheeris returns to The Sundance Film Festival (The Decline of Western Civilization, Part III won the Freedom of Expression Award at the Film Festival in 1998) with yet another film that focuses on music and the culture surrounding it. Her ability to contextualize the impact of music within the collective consciousness of a specific period is remarkable, yet she still captures plenty of intense, in-your-face concert footage from bands that know what it means to rock.

— Trevor Groth

Screening Details

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