Opening 27 Jun 2013
A “silent” movie about a band is already an oxymoron. Never fear: here the music is loud and strong. The German marching brass band Mardi Gras had us all practically marching around the cinema seats. It’s the commentary which is silent. It appears as text on a screen, white with a black background much like that other recent silent movie The Artist. Never is your enjoyment of the band disturbed by talking heads. This was an excellent method of presentation by director Jonas Grosch. He should go far in his movie career.
Grosch accompanied the nine-member band for three days on a hot and sweaty tour through Austria. They play not only brass instruments, but also drums and guitar and the music is not your standard um-pah-pah, but very melodic and original. Lead guitarist and vocalist is Doc Wenz, who has been a musician for 30 years and a member of Mardi Gras for 20. This is not a boy band; the musicians are middle-aged men.
A movie short, shown before the main film, was a documentary about Hamburg’s famous Michelle Records company, Gertrudenkirchhof 10, downtown Hamburg. Founded in 1977, it almost went under in 1999, but, after the owner pulled out, former employees (all somehow involved in music) took over so that it continues. It is one of few records shops in Hamburg, and probably the only record – we are talking vinyl – shop which sells NEW records. It is famous for its store-front live concerts, which give many bands an opportunity to build a bond, with a live audience.
Both films are interesting and well-made, especially if you wish to know more about the music business. My greatest impression was that these people deeply believe in what they do; they are enthusiastic and determined in spite of great odds, i.e., no money.
I attended the premiere in Hamburg’s Abaton cinema. Director Jonas Grosch told me that he had approached Matthias Elwardt, the cinema manager, with the offer to come to Hamburg. Three members of Mardi Gras BB played live after the film presentation, three songs, which we had also heard in the film. Even with three participants they were impressive, so you can imagine how nine sounded. There was a discussion with director Grosch, band-member Wenz, Andreas Gutjahr from Our Label Records and VUT (Verband unabhängiger Musikunternehmen/Independent Music Companies), and Christoph Messen from Michelle Records, led by Matthias Elwardt of Abaton Cinema. Topics were the future of independent music, music on a financial basis, protection of copyrights, the impact of the internet, the usefulness of GEMA (Society for musical performing and mechanical reproduction rights). Doc Wenz summed it up, “The internet doesn’t function like a Litfaßsäule (city billboard).” In other words, it doesn’t bring the band to the people and the people to the band. It’s not up close and personal. (Becky Tan)