Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Stand By for Failure: A Negativland Documentary (2023) Boston Underground Film Festival


If you know the group of people known as Negativland then you know that their albums  and videos consist of a collage method of construction. They pull things all together from a wide variety of places that they weave together to kind of form a new whole. Some times if fails but a lot more times it soars which is why the Over The Edge radio show has been running for decades in California. (Though my understanding its now repeats)

I discovered them decades ago when they were featured in books and magazines on Fringe subjects and then really noticed them where some of their work, a single called U2 in particular,  got them sued by a certain rock group who thought they were infringing on them. It was a clear example that Bono and the boys never heard the piece, and not understanding that they  were doing,  what not leaving them alone would ever do, which is give them an international attention.  People sought them out just to see what the fuss was.

In the early days of the internet I started listening off an on to the Over The Edge Radio show they did every week a for 3 to 6 hours before drifting away. Though recently I fell back into OTE and I listen to episodes almost every night. SO when I saw Boston Underground was running a new documentary on them I had to see it.

If you don’t know the group this film is going to seem to be all over the place. If you do know them the film is going to be the perfect portrait. The film is a collage of old video and audio pieces mixed with new ones. It’s up to date covering the death of some of the founding members. It’s a film that has a through line, lots of seeming digressions that all come together in the end.  I absolutely loved the film.  If perhaps I didn’t get to really know all of the guys in the band, that’s okay because what’s here is choice.

Sonically this film blew me away. Containing one of the most aggressive audio tracks I’ve ever run across the audio seemed to be dancing around my laptop as I was watching the film, and I say that since the sound was coming out of the tiny speakers built in- I shouldn’t have felt like I was in a Dolby theater.

This film is an absolute trip. It is a beautiful tribute to a bunch of friends who spent the better part of the last five decades making mischief and making their audiences think. Its a film, like their "music" and their radio show that you have to experience rather than read about- so go see it.

While the nature of the film and the group at its center isn’t for everyone, for those who are open minded and willing to take a ride, this is going to be something glorious.

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