Being an avid fan of Belgian mashup maestros & all round DJ nut jobs 2 many djs and partial to hanging out on occasion with the “Pirates” over at their little Swedish HQ I ventured with more than a little enthusiasm to this years Encounters fest in Cape Town to check out a Canadian doccie that, according to the blurb, seeks to explore the burgeoning culture behind open source and remixing, a little something called RIP a remix Manifesto
Expecting a little good natured ribbing at the corporates and egos that dominate the music scene(Metalica vs Napster being the obvious celebrity death match, where Lar’s whinging substantiated my long held belief that Metalica is more tin foil than metal), but what struck me was something completely different and certainly more far reaching. What the filmmaker cleverly lays out is a complete thesis, opening up the conversation about how heavy-handed copyright legislation is actually stifling creativity. Going beyond the simple nicking of an 80s sample for a pop ditty, the film moves on to explore serious ramifications of copyright legislation across the cultural landscape and into various fields from pharmaceuticals to scientific research.
Eliciting the assistance of numerous and diverse sociological heavy hitters like the creative commons movement and the Brazilian HIV prevention program the film grounds itself firmly in the open source camp.
But where the film comes alive is when it hits you in the solar plexus and rattles your funny bones through its well aimed pot shots targeting, amongst others, the Disney corporation and the other four media conglomerates who own no less than approximately 80% of creative content in the USA, and the Rolling Stones who successfully sued the Verve for the complete song royalties for a short, more like tiny, sample from an orchestral recording of The Last Time for use in their classic and infinitely better Bitter Sweet Symphony which in turn as our Indiana Jones/Michael Moore hybrid filmmaker points out is taken directly from a Muddy Waters song, where Muddy himself, in a crackly original recording, admits to “borrowing it” from Robert Johnson. Succeeding effortlessly and more than a little cheekily to posit the first point in the eponymous manifesto namely that Culture Always Builds On The Past.
Building on that foundation the movie embarks on a high energy, sound byte-ing journey that demonstrates rather than explains the manifesto’s philosophy way wittier than the written word could ever do. Though always sticking to a vaguely structured argument this is far from a sociological 101 handout, it is a fast paced, enjoyable, often laugh out loud funny, examination of the hypocrisy and idiocy from legislators, conglomerates and sadly often the “artists” themselves(insert aging metal bands here)surrounding creative content control in today’s world.
The feel throughout is upbeat, quirky, frenetic though verging on cute, I think that is a Canadian thing.The music is cutting edge -the one man and his laptop that is Girl Talk is a real find, and with over 300 samples in one song alone he is a copyright lawyers nightmare. AHA moments fly at you constantly and even the ultimate celebrity remixed packaged icon herself -Paris Hilton makes a guest appearance.
So all in all it is a postmodern rollercoaster that although scathingly critical of the present corporate creative culture is actually a celebration of the potential of creativity that exists. That creativity will out no matter the barriers, that the clown, the disrupter and I suppose ultimately the artist will find a way, and not scared to give the finger every step of the way.
Sometimes it moves along with such pace that you struggle to take in the exact logic, that however might very well be the point, as many dissenting viewpoints are either skimmed over or ignored completely, and why not it is meant to be polemic and a bloody good one at that. One you are not likely to hear from the mainstream media as they are, as the film takes pains to point out, the owners of the copyrights in question.It is the kind of film that can be talked about for ages afterwards, which means you will want all your mates to see it, dissect it, argue about it, everyone will have an opinion.
And true to the ethos everyone can see it for free to download here or pay what you feel as the filmmaker so generously puts it, and if you are inspired by the manifesto then your are encouraged to go to open source cinema and take the whole film to sample from, add to with your own media or content from other open source sites like you tube or flikr, to recreate, take back ownership and ultimately, of course to remix.
I think my namesake Max Headroom a completely remixed eighties entity himself would approve.
The full manifesto for those who are still reading is: culture always builds on the past, the past always tries to control the future, our future is becoming less free, and to build free societies we need to limit the control of the past.