Music documentaries are a very mixed bag and, while I am generally a fan of the subjects, and the stories contained within are almost always fascinating, it seems that there is a real knack, or art if you will, to making those stories come to life and create a fascinating film.
A couple of people who have that ability are, primarily, Julien Temple, who has charted pre-punk, punk and post-punk (and other things besides) in his own unique way, and the guys from Banger films who have traced the Evolution of Heavy Metal as well as bringing the story of Rush and Alice Cooper to the screen in fine style.
So, with all this in mind I headed into We Are The Recks, a Guernsey produced documentary on the titular Sark based indie-folkers, with high hopes of some good stories but well aware that this was, essentially, an extended college project.
This isn’t something that filmmaker, Gemma Honey, shies away from, making it clear in a couple of introductory title cards where the film comes from, but, at an hour in duration, this is a fairly epically extended single-handed student film.
Across the hour we are taken through the story of the band from how they all found music originally, to how they came together on their tiny island home, to their hopes for the future of the band. This is all interspersed with snatches of live performances from a couple of different gigs and, predominantly, the band sat outside the Bel Air pub in Sark with an acoustic guitar.
These scenes around the table at the Bel Air seem to want to act like a centre point to the film but are never really allowed to be as title cards lead us, somewhat obviously, through the band’s story.
This is something many documentary makers, most with much more experience than Gemma, fall into doing as it does seem to be a good way of moving a story on, but, unless handled very well it can lose something of the spontaneity that is needed to transmit the character of the individuals on-screen.
The other thing that, for me at least, always marks out a good documentary of any genre is when the filmmaker is using the story to say something. This is something Julien Temple excels in as he manages to convey the story of his subject while at the same time saying something more and it is this that can elevate the music documentary to a higher level.
Unfortunately this isn’t something that seems to be happening here, which does leave it with the feeling of being something like an extended Electronic Press Kit video at times and at others it does get a bit aimless and repetitive.
That all said though what it does do very well is introduce us to this band of characters and some of their music, though without much recorded yet, it is limited in how much of the music it can get ‘on screen’ so to speak.
But certainly, if you didn’t know the band before, I can only imagine you’d come away from this intrigued as to what they do live and, while a few moments seem to show the band in a slightly strange light, it does capture something of their essence.
So, while Gemma doesn’t quite have the knack mentioned earlier, as a first effort at this kind of film this is far from a failure and should act as a reasonable primer for anyone ‘googling’ The Recks as they prepare for some UK festival shows this summer.
I only wish there was more gig footage of the band included as this is where The Recks really shine.
The whole thing is on YouTube so why not have a look yourself, The Recks are certainly worth an hour of your time:
And here’s a live video of The Recks from Guernsey Gigs:
And here’s the review as it appeared in The Guernsey Press on Thursday 19th June 2014: