Copyright © 1998 All Rights Reserved.
by Red Eye
Hang the DJ
Directed by Mauro and Marco La Villa
Opens Friday September 25
It's been said that DJs are the rock stars of the '90s, and if that's true then Hang The DJ is one of the first rockumentaries to focus on these dancefloor dons. Canadian directors, brothers Marco and Mauro LaVilla, followed, chased down or bumped into some titanic talent. Featuring Junior Vasquez, Roger Sanchez and Q-Bert, the film travels through eight countries and dozens of parties and clubs in fast-paced and highly entertaining style. With all the slick editing and cool characters, not to mention the pumpin' soundtrack, it looks and sounds like a million bucks. Surprisingly, not near that much money was put into the package.
"A lot of people have this idea that we were jet-set and had millions of dollars and we're just hangin' out in the clubs with assistants. Uh, not the case," laughs Marco over the phone from Montreal . "The images look really slick but our camera men are really good. We put them through hell, we went through hell. It was more like a rock band. Y'know, working, taking the equipment out of the back of the van, driving all over the place and sweating it out."
Easy to believe once you find out that the guys worked in their uncle's deli almost every night for years to be able to afford to put themselves through film school. Full of that practical, just-get-the-shit-done Old World wisdom they chose to make a movie on DJs. Their uncle's pizza joint was actually the Euro-Deli on St. Laurent which, since the deli first opened, has turned into a strip of bars and clubs. They worked there until it closed at four in the morning for years. Who came in for pizza then? DJs. They knew them, so why not make a movie about them?
"We came out of school and right away we wanted to do a project and we were writing a fiction narrative. It was taking a bit of time so we wanted to do something quicker, even though this ended up taking three years," he chuckles.
Three years of hell, all right. Filming Q-Bert in San Francisco with the driver as the soundman. Sitting down in Belgium and ordering coffee, only to find that nobody had any money - at all. Keeping the crew in London an extra day after running into Goldie and setting up an interview "at his crib" the next day. Then showing up only to have him cancel because of a hangover and the fact that his Mum was coming 'round. And of course, the filming of Junior Vasquez's marathon Saturday night set in New York.
"In the research I had done, he never went after five in the morning. We realized that night when we were shooting that he actually started around six in the morning, like really getting into it. Then at 10 o'clock we're like, 'Okay, he's gotta finish his set.' Twelve o'clock - this guy's killing us," he groans. "The whole crew's falling asleep, but he's still really, really DJing. The crowd is going nuts and he's still got like three thousand people left! Two o'clock in the afternoon, our eyeballs are just about to fall out and he's still taking requests, totally energized! And we took a Greyhound back to Montreal that night. We finished working at two in the afternoon, went for a turkey burger at three o'clock and at five o'clock I was on a Greyhound. It took 13 hours to get back because of ice on the highway. That's how jet-set we were."
Not for long, though. The movie opened to sold out theatres, roaring crowds and four star reviews at the Toronto Film Festival. There's a world tour with the DJs from the movie and, of course a Website (www.hangdj.com) with clips, info and lots of soundbytes. Thankfully, the hoopla doesn't detract at all from the subject matter at hand, even if some people think it should.
"Basically it's a portrait on DJs. It's not a film about drugs, it's not a film about music, it's not a film about night life. It's a film about disc jockeys," emphasizes Marcos. "We didn't want to focus on the rock 'n' roll in the '60s. What about rock 'n' roll now? I went to the Rolling Stones, what was the first thing I saw? A guy coming out on a stretcher, passed out."
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