Director Brett Morgen on His Favorite Nirvana Song & How Ken Burns Helped Prep Him

by Valentina I. Valentini 9:50 AM PDT, April 21, 2015
Photo: Getty Images

Handpicked by Kurt Cobain's ex Courtney Love, director Brett Morgen -- famous for his critically acclaimed documentary, The Kid Stays in the Picture, and his work on ESPN’s 30 for 30 -- had the daunting task of telling the late Nirvana singer's story in the new film, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.

After eight years, Morgen finally completed the project, which first premiered at Sundance and later screened at the Tribeca Film Festival where he and Love sat down for an intimate discussion about Cobain. Among the questions asked: Morgen’s favorite Nirvana song.

“I would say at the moment it is ‘Territorial Pissings,’ ” the director told ETonline at the Tribeca screening.

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The song is a punk record from Nevermind, Nirvana’s breakthrough 1991 album. The paranoid track, written by Cobain and singer-songwriter Chet Powers, was recorded in one take.

“It just gets me in the mood,” he added, though not elaborating further.

Having listened to countless mixtapes, unreleased songs and watched rare performances, Morgen’s selection is no doubt a surprising one though the song is considered by Rolling Stone to be among the best of the band’s entire catalog.

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As for finding the strength to take on a documentary like this, the director cites a speech filmmaker Ken Burns gave when he visited Hampshire College where Morgen was a student.

“[Ken] said something that always stuck with me, which was that for eons and eons history was something in the oral tradition, there were stories that got passed down from generation to generation and it's only really been in modern times where it's become more fact based,” Morgen told ETonline. “I always liked that.”

For more on the discussion held between Love and Morgen, check out ETonline's recap of the event.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck will premiere on HBO on Monday, May 4.