We’re officially in lockdown starting at midnight on the 26th of March.
Since we’re all going to be cooped up and itching for entertainment, I thought I’d compile a little list of documentaries that are available for everyone in South Africa, because you know, not everyone can subscribe to a streaming service.
I’m focusing on music documentaries because besides Sci-Fi it’s my favourite thing to spend my free time watching.
Paris Is Burning
Not only my favourite music documentary, but one of my favourites overall. A deep and personal journey into New York’s Ball and Vogue scenes. I go back to this documentary every now and then just to remind myself of the origins of club culture and the influence the LGBTQI+ community has had in the development of dance music overall.
Pump Up the Volume: A History of House Music
From the genre’s origins in Chicago, its obscurity in the country it was created in, and its simultaneous boom in overseas markets, this doccie covers it all. Today the subgenres of House music are everywhere, taking a titanium grade foothold in South Africa, and influencing some of our own biggest homegrown musical movements, from kwaito to gqom to amapiano.
For a time, you couldn’t switch on a music channel or radio without hearing some form of gqom music being blasted towards you. While the commercial side of the gqom spectrum has largely plateaued and is steadily being nudged backward by amapiano as the sound of the day, the underground, and gqom’s intended purpose as a dark style of music made under extraordinary circumstances, Woza Taxi takes a look at the origins of the genre in a blitz of a short documentary.
Until The Light Takes Us
I’ve never understood Black Metal. While I enjoy some bands like Immortal, it’s adjacent band Abbath, and Dimmu Borgir, the intention behind the music has always been out of my reach. Until The Light Takes Us takes a look at the reactionary, political, anti-Christian, and very often bloody first years of the genre. Mostly focused on the legend of MAYHEM and how they constructed the blue print for everything cvlt and Norwegian Black Metal, it’s worth your time if metal and its sub-genres are your cup of tea.
High Tech Soul
This documentary, along with Paris Is Burning convinced me that electronically produced music was the path I needed to embark on. Being in a band with a heavy influence by Funk music, the link was obvious to me. Before it turned into the Eurocentric deep party music it is today, the Belleville Three from Detroit made Techno an extension of Soul Music, a resistant strain of Black expression.
Spoiler alert – this is a documentary about my one and only favourite band. One of the most influential, but one of the most overlooked, bands in the modern rock ‘n’ roll canon, Joy Division created music that was unlike anything else at the time. Formed in Manchester, far away from the main punk and post-punk booms in London, England, they created music that felt vast, empty, personal, and intense at the same time. Other articles and documentaries, and even films, focus on the life of lead singer Ian Curtis and position him as the sole driving force. Joy Division does not. Check it out if you want to know where bands like Editors, Interpol, The Killers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and even bands like My Chemical Romance, got much of their influence from.
Justice – A Cross The Universe
Honourable mention goes to Parabyl for reminding me of this one. French Dance music duo Justice embarked on their first US tour and filmed everything: the debauchery of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, their epic live performances, and coming to grips with their impending fame. To many Justice is the post-2005 generation’s Daft Punk, approaching the funk and disco samples used by their French house antecedents with a garage rock mentality.