This is one of those moments where I kick myself for not getting to hear the sounds of Singapore's post-rock band I Am David Sparkle early enough, but it's better late than never, thanks to this documentary film showcased at the Singapore Panorama section of this year's Singapore Interntional Film Festival, a film that was two years in the making since it charted the rock band's challenges when it got invited to play at South by Southwest in 2009.
Ignore All Detour Signs, directed by Helmi Ali and Razin Ramzi and what would be Singapore's first feature length music documentary, is probably one of the most apt titles one can think of when the film is about sticking to one's course and cause even, not to be distracted by short cuts, cry over spilt milk or rue and regret missed opportunities. It's about seizing the moment that you're given, and making the very best with whatever's at your disposal, rather than playing the blame game, or just rollling over and play dead instead of coming out fighting for an opportunity. This film is all that, and more, especially appealing to anyone involved in any way with any independents arts scene, with the constant, identifiable issues revolving around funding.
Getting invited to South By Southwest is the least of the band's problems, but getting there is since they're not rock stars (just yet), but four long time friends who have gotten together to make music magic. The documentary chronicles the 40 odd days in the run up to their departure and stint at SXSW, which were faced with the usual challenge of fund raising, seeking grants, and being blind sided unfortunately with what could turn out to be a cruel spanner thrown at their plans, something that could threaten the very existence of the team since it hits the raw nerves and attacks the soul of camaraderie at point blank range.
Clocking in at slightly under an hour, Ignore All Detour Signs moves an incredibly breezy pace with a sepia tinged look since it's a blast from the past, and it doesn't bore or go the conventional documentary look with the usual talking heads from band members or supporters, instead since it's a documentary about the band with a mission to undertake, the filmmakers put you into the film watching like a fly on the wall, and best of all allowed ample time for the band's music to take over. Granted we have the obligatory introduction to the band members and their managers, but it's the strong personalities of the members themselves that made this an engaging watch, especially when the quartet of Amran Khamis, Djohan Johari, Farizwan Fajari and Zahir Sanosi come alive through their gigs.
I liked what I saw and I love the music even more, so much so that I'm a fan convert immediately after the end credits rolled. And thankfully Helmi Ali and Razin Ramzi finally allowed for one uninterrupted celebration of their music. It's a film about one of the hottest bands in the local music scene, but more so a film that had evolved to become the soapbox for countless of other up and coming musicians in highlighting the lack of funding and more importantly, support, as they go about pursuing their passion and dreams, something which we have direct influence over if we are to turn up in droves to lend our attendance and support, to the good acts of course, which will in turn translate to better exposure and the raising of their profile. After all, if folks from overseas are willing to give our local talent a chance, why shouldn't we in the first place?
Forget Pearl Jam Twenty if you're on this part of the world, and give it up for Ignore All Detour Signs with I Am David Sparkle.
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