With the advent of digital technology and the wonders of globalized communications, it’s impossible for fans to get to know everything that’s going on musically around the world. Even for lovers of one genre, say alt. rock, there’s just too much, too many countries, too many styles, too many bands. It’s easy, then, to give it up and simply listen to what’s easily available, what commercial radio has deemed “popular”, what everyone around you is listening to. But that’s not a good solution either for those who are aware of how much they’re missing. This is why the work of Brazilian filmmakers Diana Boccara and Leo Longo is so welcome, and so important.
In their wonderful series Around the World in 80 Music Videos (ATW80 for short), they did the heavy lifting for us, searching for top-notch performers and providing them with a platform to introduce themselves to the world.
Starting on March 30, 2015, Boccara and Longo released two videos per week on their YouTube channel. The first featured the Brazilian band Pato Fu performing their high-spirited track “Eu Era Feliz” (“I Was Happy”). The video is a low-budget expression of a high-concept idea. From up above we see a hedge maze through which lead singer Fernanda Takai runs endlessly, looking for a non-existent exist. “I got lost”, she explains in the song, “I didn’t realize I was happy”.
The video is notable for being shot in one take, a hallmark of ATW80’s videos thereafter. Accompanying the music video is a mini making-of documentary, which tells of the band, the choice of location and the artistic vision behind the video. The result, beyond listening to a beautiful song by a band we didn’t know, is a deeper understanding of the connections between different forms of art, and of the passion that drives artists to launch crazy, seemingly impossible projects.
And so it went for a year and a half, ending in November of 2016. Eighty videos, eighty documentaries. The process was straightforward, but not any easier for that. For each video the filmmakers selected a band, then asked its members to pick a song for the projected. Together, filmmakers and musicians worked on the video’s concept, and then each went to work on what they do best. That they accomplished so much with a tiny budget and no crew to speak of speaks to their ability to form relationships with artists around the world (many of which they found on Google), which in a way was the primary intent of the project in the first place.
Some of the videos show the band at work, in the studio or in concert, while others are more conceptual. The one for American Woodie Pines’ “Stella Blue” has the singer playing a cardboard guitar while interacting with two-dimensional cardboard creatures. For “Wait”, by the Russian band On the Go, they follow a red-haired girl on a mysterious mission through a dilapidated urban environment. Others are just silly. The one for “Get Loose”, by the Irish band The Coronas, shows the band members covered in paint, food, and other sundries, and then unspools backwards (in a single take) to show how they got to be in their sorry state.
There is a certain sense of repetition that comes from listening to the songs in succession. This is understandable, as the selection parameters boiled down to whatever Boccara and Longo thought was cool. The same is true of the videos, which, though representing the points of view of the various bands, also testify to the specific aesthetic inclinations of its creators.
But that’s totally OK. You don’t have to watch them all, and certainly not in order, to delight in the wonderful pool of talent working in the Alt-Rock genre today – from Capo and Molotov in Mexico to Whale and the Electriceels in South Korea – and to appreciate the titanic work that went into creating this monument to international musical cooperation.