NXNE 2013: The Global Groove Network – Documentary Review
Approaching a documentary about an unfamiliar or little-understood topic can be a daunting task. Fortunately, films such as The Global Groove Network are careful to take their possibly inexperienced audiences into account. This film relates the major influence that DJs and electronic music have had on the life of first-time director, writer, and producer Courtney James. By providing his audience with historical context, scientific justification, and real-life stories, James offers a simple yet enlightening, and surprisingly engaging, work of film.
Ultimately, The Global Groove Network chronicles James’ experiences with electronic music, demonstrating the ways in which it positively impacted his life. James is aware that much of his audience may be sceptical in regards to the merits of DJs and dance music, however, and meets this challenge head-on. By explaining the way in which electronic music has evolved through history, from disco in the 1970s to the house music embraced by Generation X, James creates a tangible link to which much of his audience may relate. The film is punctuated by quotes from various artists such as Picasso, John Lennon, Bob Marley, and Bob Dylan; by using the words of established, recognizable artists and relating them to his subject matter, James elevates his own topic and allows a viewer to connect the DJs on which he focuses to the artists whom he quotes. Another technique used by James is the focus on science to explain DJ techniques and to demonstrate the ways in which studies have shown the minds of DJs to possess the same strengths and rhythmic abilities as those of musicians. Although scientific evidence is certainly unnecessary as artistic justification, it is definitely beneficial for a wide, and possibly ignorant, audience, of which I may admit to being a member.
An especially fascinating aspect of this film is its focus on many individual stories. Although the movie is about James and his special relationship with music, many other tales are presented, from a look at the famous “DJ Dan” to the story of Rita, who rediscovered her love of dance music at the age of forty-eight. James also considers many different perspectives in his examination of dance music, as he travels to Panama in order to understand the historical origins of rhythm and beat, attends the Burning Man festival for a proper tribal experience of community, and interviews pastors to gain an understanding of the parallels between a church- and club-going experience, as well as to properly appreciate the religious nature of music itself.
The Global Groove Network loses nothing due to its low production value; indeed, the conversational voice-over adds a tone of welcome, fun, and friendliness. This mood is appropriate in a film that stressed the importance of community and connection, and the filming style reflects the hectic and excited atmosphere it aims to portray. The Canadian focus was also noteworthy, as clubs in Toronto are mentioned alongside famous international venues. This film will be appreciated by fans of electronic dance music and DJs, but also caters to those who may simply not “get it” initially. Although I probably will not be running to Toronto to experience this party scene myself, after viewing this documentary, I definitely have a greater understanding of this art form, and can recognize and appreciate it as such. Anything that focuses on transcending boundaries and bringing people together, as does the dance scene outlined here, sounds good to me.