Sydney Fringe Techno Film Showcase Review: Paris/Berlin: 20 Years of Underground Techno (France, 2012)

While electronic music is doing supremely well in Australia at the moment, we can’t say that it’s always been this way. We can only dream of regularly having warehouse parties and living up to techno hotspots Paris and Berlin. With links to the underground and drug scene, it’s no surprise that the mysterious depths of techno music have plenty of back stories. And Amelie Ravalec, 20 year-old Parisian filmmaker, has spent the past three years on research and production for her documentary film Paris/Berlin: 20 Years Of Underground Techno.

The film screened internationally in 2012 and it has returned to screen at the Sydney Fringe Festival after earlier success in Perth and Melbourne. At Leichardt’s Italian Forum the robotic sounds echoed around the room and as the opening interview of the film denotes: “It’s meant to be loud.”

Ravalec comes from a city where 16-year-olds have years of rave experience at and foten go to school straight from the party. Although born decades after the birth of techno, she said during post-screening Q&A: “It’s not my story but I managed to tell it.”

Most exposure in Austraila to the beginnings of techno stem from German artists such as Kraftwerk and Ancient Methods (both of whom have played in Australia this year). The documentary aims to not only explore the nuances of their music but also the historical background. In a series of thorough interviews with DJs and producers who were part of the original scene – we learn that the inhuman, apocalyptic sounds of the EBM scene pay homage to the mood of frustration after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. All of which originated in chaotic Detroit.

With a tradition of social experiment and creativity, it’s hard not to admire how much the original characters were breaking down barriers. Once the Berlin techno scene gained momentum, French artists quickly took interest but did not anticipate having to challenge the original image of the techno scene as a place for homosexuals and junkies. Interestingly, the comparison between the two cosmopolitan cities shows up Paris as a lot more institutional – and the nightlife, more exclusive.

Ravalec has dug up a lot of archive footage (no small feat considering a good chunk of it is analogue), which put us in place of the ravers and anonymous techno creators.

Not only do we plunge back into the EBM underworld but the film also explores the consequences of the Internet for the scene. Where techno began as a faceless expression- where the ideal setup was dark, loud and anonymous – international acts are putting more and more effort into creating an image à la rock ‘n’ roll star.

Ironically, with the rise of mass electronic events the techno scene is heading back underground and the sound alternatively venturing into dark dubstep. And the message remains poignant. The crux of the film celebrates self-expression and creativity during a period where individuals felt like they almost had no control over their surroundings.

Ravalec is now working on a film on industrial music, “Industrial Soundtrack for the Urban Decay.”

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE) ****

Runtime: 52 Minutes

Paris/Berlin: 20 Years of Underground Techno screened as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival.


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