SXSW Movie Review: Bananaz

The concept of an inside look at The Gorillaz sounds great. Bananaz is a documentary that takes you into the world of a band that very few people know anything about. The extent of knowledge on The Gorillaz, for most people, ends with the fact that they are a band that is made up of cartoon characters. This documentary takes you into the minds of the real members of this band; Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn.

This has been the biggest disappointments of the festival so far for me. I was hoping for so much more out of this project. I love The Gorillaz, and I am fascinated with the approach taken by the members. This one sadly falls into the ambiguous pile of meaningless band DVD’s. The film has a serious lack of structure and information. I learned that the film spans almost six years, but you have no way of telling so from the film itself. The film also lacked the ability to showcase some of the aspects that might make this an interesting movie.

The Gorillaz has several aspects that make them attractive, such as the mystery behind the cartoon band members, their artwork, their musical style and their concerts. While the film touches on the origins of the band, it never really explains anything. There is not an established timeline, so you have to make an assumption as to what point of the bands existence you are watching. Also, the bands artwork and animations are very unique and instead of making that a focus for the film, the director flashes artwork on screen at an epileptic rate. The music is showcased fairly well, showing the various stages of production but you never get to hear a full song. Several concerts are within the film, but not in a way that is found to be entertaining. The only highlight of the concerts was to be able to see how they perform the concerts without showing the band members.

The only thing that even slightly kept the film together, was the erratic and hilarious behavior of Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn. Albarn is like a child, just enjoying the ride. It is very entertaining to see how much he hates the politics and the dog and pony show that comes with releasing an album and stardom. It was particularly funny to hear that he was forced to walk the red carpet at the MTV Music Video Awards, even though he protested and said that no one would even know who he was. He was right, and the red carpet went blank. Albarn is a true musician, and this film shows it. But it doesn’t show much else.

I had to struggle through this one, and I’m a fan of the music. This will be one for die-hard fans only.

Grade: D

Bananaz was produced and directed by Ceri Levy. It made its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 12, 2008. It has a 92 minute runtime.

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