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FANDOR: “Music Is the Weapon, Meet the Real Fela Kuti (Not the Broadway Version)”

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Forgot to put this up last week. I wrote about the 1982 Fela Kuti documentary Music Is The Weapon for the streaming film website Fandor. If you haven’t seen it, you can join Fandor for a week for free and check it out. You should!

Sitting in a busted chair amongst his numerous dancers and wives, nestled in his compound in Lagos, which he declared its own separate republic, Fela Anikulapo Kuti pontificates on solving the dire situation in his home country of Nigeria: “Africans must know. Someone must spread the knowledge.” He then pauses for dramatic effect. “And I think I have the knowledge.” He brings a massive joint to his lips. It is 1982 and Fela is running for president of Nigeria, whether the hopelessly corrupt powers that be like it or not.

If your experience with the Afrobeat inventor and political firebrand comes from Fela!, the hit Broadway musical with the tagline “Energy, Passion, Revolution, Power” then this not-so-glamorous, ground-level documentary may be particularly edifying. Stéphane Tchal Gadjieff and Jean-Jacques Flori’s Fela Kuti: Music Is The Weapon is a near-hour long dose of Fela that allows viewers to make of him what they will. When he’s shown driving a van with his name emblazoned on the front of it, there’s a creepy though maybe necessary hucksterism to his political sloganeering and advertising. Indeed, his nightclub is called–with some irony and clever branding–The Shrine. But you also witness the musician terrorized by government, which makes his passion tangible…

Written by Brandon

January 2nd, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Fandor

Fandor: “Fighting for The Right to Copy, Craig Baldwin’s Sonic Outlaws

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Sonic Outlaws, the Negativland movie, is now streaming on Fandor and I wrote about how it’s dissection of sampling, copyright infringement, and idiotic American copyright law is even more relevant 16 years after the movie came out. We’re all culture-jammers now.

“These guys are from England and who gives a shit?” Casey Kasem exhorts after flubbing the name of Irish rock group U2. That’s just one of the sounds—sampled, found, manipulated, re-composed—heard on Negativland’s U2 EP. Some others: the Saturday morning countdown host angrily yelling about a sad dedication to a dead dog right after “an uptempo fucking record,” random expletives from Kasem woven into the song’s instrumental bed, the familiar strains of U2′s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” picked apart, overlaid with video game sounds, and that longing-filled melody performed on budget synthesizers and a kazoo…

Written by Brandon

June 20th, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Posted in Fandor

Fandor: “Top Ten Films About Filmmaking, From Altman to Vertov.”


Fandor is now streaming Jim McBride’s excellent David Holzmann’s Diary and so, they polled the site’s contributors and put up a list of the best movies about movies. I wrote the entry on Fassbinder’s Beware Of A Holy Whore. Also, click here and scroll down for my entire ballot.

Fassbinder’s tenth film (in two years!) meanders around a movie set, depicting the cast and crew’s worst impulses as they manipulate and seduce each other and never quite come together to engage in the communal act of creating great art. Inspired by the sexual tension-filled production of his previous film, a polymorphously perverse Sirk-like Spaghetti Western called Whity, Fassbinder used the movie-about-a-movie conceit to illustrate the inevitable failure of utopian ideals. That a masterpiece was made about how hard and horrible it is to make such a masterpiece is oddly appropriate…

Written by Brandon

June 18th, 2011 at 6:22 am

Posted in Fandor, movies

Fandor: “A Fateful Trip, ‘Hofmann’s Potion’ Shows the Discovery of LSD.”


Haven’t you heard? 4/19’s the new 4/20! I wrote about the Canadian documentary Hofmann’s Potion–which traces the pre-60s history of LSD–for the film site Fandor. If you’re not familiar, Fandor is a streaming movie rental service that focuses on independent and hard-to-find older films. If Hofmann’s Potion (or anything else on Fandor) grabs you, you can watch one movie for free on the site by logging in via Facebook.

Today, all the run of the mill stoners are anticipating tomorrow’s designated smoke-up date of “4/20” (The date’s significance is appropriately hazy: some say it’s a police code, others trace it back to a ‘70s in-joke, but either way it’s the hallowed pothead holiday). Mind you, the true drug connoisseurs aren’t pre-gaming by stocking up on potato chips, killer tunes, and fresh hackie-sacks. They’re already glued to their recliner, or wandering the woods, straight tripping balls!

See, April 19th marks the day in 1943 that Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann “discovered” d-lysergic acid diethylamide, a.k.a LSD, while researching a cure for migraine headaches. He accidentally absorbed a small bit through his finger and took note of its well, evidentiary effects. Produced by the National Film Board of Canada, Hoffmann’s Potion revisits the early days of LSD, featuring a cast of now-elderly scientists (most in quite good health) who constitute a secret society privy to this new portal to perception…

Written by Brandon

April 19th, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Fandor, drugs, film