Aside from the enlightenment I experienced watching the documentary RIP: A Remix Manifesto, I realized how tragic it is that I don’t have the opportunity to review more independently produced films. Viewing movies that are shaped from the sheer passion of their subject, created by talented artists motivated more by the desire to get their message out to the world than by money, helps me remember why I started this site in the first place.
A film like RIP comes along at just the right time – in the heart of a summer movie season filled with another crop of sequels, CGI and spectacle, that are mostly forgotten even before you throw your empty popcorn bag in the trash. The film takes up the debate on copyright infringement and artistic freedom and uniquely pushes the boundaries of what’s termed as “fair use”. It also takes a somewhat humorous look at the colorful history of copyright laws, and how they’ve evolved over the years.
Let me be clear, the film doesn’t act as a cheerleader for music downloading. I started life as an illustrator, so that would piss me the hell off. It champions the point that ideas, art and culture all evolve from the past, and artists must have access to that past, in order to evolve and create themselves. It uses music to show just how artists like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, just to name a few, have been inspired by earlier creations.
RIP is an innovative and energetic documentary that explores the complexities of intellectual property in the era of the internet, peer-to-peer file sharing and corporate media dominance. Web activist and filmmaker Brett Gaylor speaks to the viewer on an even plain, presenting a mash-up of music, images and video clips whose pungent vibrancy works extremely well within the context of the story line and facts provided.
However, Gaylor doesn’t rely on thumping music and colorful images alone to get his point across, as he treks across the globe to interview key players in the debate, including Professor Lawrence Lessig, the founder of Creative Commons and Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society; technology activist Cory Doctorow; world-renowned musician, web proselytizer and former Brazilian Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil; U.S. Register of Copyrights, Marybeth Peters; The Mouse Liberation Front, and the film’s central protagonist, Gregg Gillis, a Pittsburgh biomedical engineer who moonlights as a mash-up musician named Girl Talk, throwing parties featuring entirely sample-based songs that rearrange pop chart standards.
The DVD also contains over 90 minutes of bonus footage unavailable anywhere else, including nearly 30 minutes of mash-up favorites from OpenSourceCinema.org and elsewhere.
I actually enjoy big-budget spectacle at times, but it’s movies like RIP that not only have more meaning and heart, but a raw artistic consciousness, that can actually inspire and move culture forward.