The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'documentary'
Sticky Carpet, a recent documentary on Melbourne's independent music scene, is coming out on DVD on 8 March 2007, and will feature over an hour of bonus material, including live footage and film clips:
This raw and vital film collects interviews from musicians currently leading the charge in Melbourne's underground. Not restricted to any one genre the film brings together everyone from sound explorers Robin Fox and Rod Cooper to and Melbourne scene stalwarts like Ross Knight (Cosmic Psychos), Bruce Milne (founder of Au-Go-Go Records, In-Fidelity Records) and Roland S. Howard (Boys Next Door, The Birthday Party).
Bands included on the documentary: The Stabs, HTRK, My Disco, Colditz Glider, The Birthday Party, Baseball, Group Seizure, True Radical Miracle, Cockfight Shootout, Nation Blue, The Sinking Citizenship, Agents of Abhorrence, Civil Dissent, ABC Weapons, Pisschrist, The Dacios, The Sailors, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Depression, Trash 'n' Chaos, Batrider, Ninetynine, The Stabs, The Assassination Collective, Digger and the Pussycats, The Losers, Bored!It looks like a DVD well worth getting.
As the reach of copyright laws is expanded and rightsholders (or their investors) are demanding as much income from each piece of intellectual property in the asset register, documentary makers are getting the rough end of the pineapple. Old documentaries are becoming illegal to distribute (and effectively disappearing down the memory hole) once their clearance rights expire, and new documentaries are often not being made without wealthy sponsors: (via bOING bOING)
But it's particularly difficult for any documentary-makers relying on old news footage, snippets of Hollywood movies or popular music -- the very essence of contemporary culture -- to tell their stories. Each minute of copyrighted film can cost thousands of dollars. Each still photo, which might appear in a documentary for mere seconds, can run into the hundreds of dollars. And costs have been rising steeply, as film archives, stock photo houses and music publishers realize they are sitting on a treasure trove, Else and other filmmakers say.
The American University study (at http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/rock/index.htm) is a fascinating, if dispiriting, look at the tricks documentary-makers have to pull to get around copyright restrictions, from turning off all TVs and radios when filming a subject indoors to replacing a clip of people watching the World Series with a shot of professional basketball on the TV set instead because that's what the filmmaker had rights for.
"Why do you think the History Channel is what it is? Why do you think it's all World War II documentaries? It's because it's public-domain footage. So the history we're seeing is being skewed towards what's fallen into public domain," says filmmaker Robert Stone in the American University study.
I saw Live Forever this afternoon. This is a recent documentary from the BBC about the rise and fall of the Britpop scene in the 1990s; it starts off with the bleak, homogenised days of Thatcherism, and the non-starter that was the Stone Roses' Spike Island gig, goes on to cover contributions from Blur, Oasis and Pulp, Tony Blair's attempt to appropriate Britpop (with some success; and no little irony, given that Britpop arose partly as a reaction to American cultural supremacy in McWorld), and dates Britpop's death at about the time Diana died, ushering everybody into the saccharine embrace of Robbie Williams and S Club 7. (And so, the cycle repeats itself.)
Live Forever features footage of gigs, fragments of music videos (some of which were quite clever), and a lot of interview footage. Damon Albarn (dressed in workman's overalls in a grungy pub) comes across as protesting a bit too much, Liam Gallagher comes across as an idiot, Noel Gallagher's somewhat more savvy though a bit egotistical, and Jarvis Cocker (in his glasses and velvet suit) seems like quite a clever guy. Then there's Louise Wener from Sleeper (who comes across as quite intelligent), Robert "3D" Del Naja of Massive Attack (interviewed at the beginning, middle and end of the movement of which they weren't a part, with their music dubbed over footage of driving at night), James Brown (of lad mag Loaded), Damien Hirst (filmed reclining on a Union Jack bedspread!), John Savage, and Wonderwall, the Oasis cover band, seen overdoing the laddism with pints and fags all round.
If you missed this documentary, it's playing again (I think it's next weekend). I strongly recommend seeing it.
This evening, I saw Breath Control: the History of the Human Beatbox. This is a documentary about the art of beatboxing, i.e., using one's mouth to make sounds like those of a drum machine (or other instruments). Beatboxing was a key part of hip-hop culture in its early days on the streets of New York, when performers would add beats (to their or other rappers' vocals or between records played by a DJ), and was brought to the public's attention by old-skool artists such as the Fat Boys and Doug E. Fresh; then it went out of fashion as everybody got samplers and stopped relying on beatboxing. Beatboxing is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance, as a new generation of performers take it beyond the old paradigms of emulating a drum machine, simulating everything from turntables to video games to entire pieces of backing music (at one point in the documentary, one artist plays Salt & Pepa's Push It on a turntable, stops it, takes over the music with his mouth, and then seamlessly restarts it some 16 or so bars later).
It was a pretty interesting documentary: highlights included Congolese-born European artist Marie Dulne (of Zap Mama)'s explanation of the rhythmic characteristics of various languages, from French to African languages to American English, and a rather amusing scene with a music journalist/beatboxer type speaking in his room, with a wall full of vinyl records and an entire shelf of designer sneakers behind him, and of course lots of footage of performances, from street jams in the 1970s to the present day. And then there was the white guy who got into beatboxing from imitating the Smashing Pumpkins' drums, and not via the hip-hop scene; which is living proof that the technique transcends any one subculture. (In fact I'm surprised that it's considered so esoteric; you'd think that hashing out sounds vocally would be as common as singing in the shower.)
The image quality was iffy in places (some of the footage was obviously recorded on consumer-grade video equipment years ago, and looked quite blurry), but that was offset by some very impressive performances; at one stage, the audience broke out in applause for a second or so.
I've just heard that the ABC is showing In the Realm of the Hackers, a local documentary about two hackers/crackers from late-1980s Melbourne, their exploits and the law's pursuit of them, tomorrow (Thursday) night at 10PM. I saw this in the cinema earlier this year, and can recommend it.
Apparently Channel 4 have made a fly-on-the-wall documentary about Morrissey. To be titled The Importance of Being Morrissey, the 75-minute film shows Morrissey relaxing at home, playing gigs and (among other things) drinking and visiting a strip joint. No word on his legendary girlfriend though. (via Largehearted Boy)
Tonight I went to a screening of In the Realm of the Hackers, a documentary about various hackers/crackers from Melbourne in the late 1980s (apparently not just another BBS/h4x0d-d00d scene, but one of the major hacker nexuses in the world); in particular, about a young man calling himself Electron and his friends, who apparently broke into machines like nobody else. It was pretty interesting; the details, connecting the mundanity of suburban Melbourne with the international computer networks of the time, were fascinating, and the reconstructed Commodore 64/Apple II screens (rebuilt from police phone intercept transcripts) were apparently the most authentic in the genre. (I half-remember various of the names seen on the hacker BBS message boards, from print-outs I saw many years ago. Of course, I never was k3wl enough to actually do any of that hacking shit myself.) Anyway, it does one proud to see that Australia can lead the world in something other than cricket.
The film was based on the book Underground, by Suelette Dreyfus, which is now online in freely downloadable form. It sounds like it's well worth a read.
Tonight at the Film Festival, I saw a documentary titled Love and Anarchy: The Wild Wild World of Jamie Leonarder. The subject of the documentary is a rather unusual person, who has lived the life of the outsider in every way. He worked in psychiatric hospitals, started a noise-rock band named The Mu-Mesons, most of whose members suffer from schizophrenia, associated with outsider artists, and more recently, ran a retro/lounge/exotica night named Sounds of Seduction in Sydney, and became a renowned collector and exhibitor of "psychotronic" cinema (i.e., all the indescribably weird stuff from prior decades, from low-budget monster movies to films from Christian groups on the evils of teenage dating to vintage sex-education films). Anyway, the documentary had some interesting thoughts on outsider art, including the assertion that outsider art is more original than art by trained or mentally normal artists (which makes sense).