Reel Indie Film Festival Review: Los Wild Ones (2013)

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Cast: 
Director: Elise Salomon
Country: USA | Ireland | Spain | UK
Genre: Documentary | Drama | Music


Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the Reel Indie Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit http://reelindiefilmfest.com/ and follow the event on Twitter at @RIFF_Toronto. Los Wild Ones is screening on October 16, 2013 at The Royal in Toronto. 

Down in southern California there’s a bit of a cultural time warp happening. The Rockabilly music scene is an underground movement that generally tries to maintain the aural and visual aesthetic of 1950’s teen culture. Of course the Rockabilly scene isn’t limited to California, but Reb Kennedy’s Wild Records is based in California and that’s where Elise Salomon spent five months shooting her documentary Los Wild Ones.

There are some intimate moments caught in this film that feel very natural. Reb’s reaction to a family trauma is touching and Salomon’s method of capturing the emotions is just right. She doesn’t pry, she remains mostly objective, but she also knows that this is what will completely humanize her subjects.

Wild Records is a Los Angeles based indie label with a focus on the Rockabilly sound. Most of the acts that form the Wild Records family are young Hispanic musicians and Reb is their Irish father figure. Salomon’s film functions on a few levels. It gives a nice overview of the Rockabilly sub-culture in order to indoctrinate the noobs (myself included), it tells the story of a small business on the verge of a major change, and probably most significantly, it functions as a family portrait. Right from the very start it’s clear that the Wild Records crew is as tight as any family unit. They hang out together, they eat together, they play in each other’s bands, and they all consider Reb to be their surrogate father.

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There are a few members of this family that we get to know quite well throughout the course of the film. Reb, Luis, Omar, and Gizelle are the main focus of the film. Each of them has a unique story and a unique role in the family. Salomon is really good at letting her subjects be comfortable and allowing them to tell us about themselves.

There are some intimate moments caught in this film that feel very natural. Reb’s reaction to a family trauma is touching and Salomon’s method of capturing the emotions is just right. She doesn’t pry, she remains mostly objective, but she also knows that this is what will completely humanize her subjects. She takes a similar approach to Luis’s admitted drinking problem. One scene in particular shows Luis getting drunk from a bottle of Gin while he speaks to Reb about the emotional troubles he’s going through. It’s a stark and honest depiction of alcoholism that resonates through the rest of the film, and it has an emotional pay off as Salomon sticks with Luis through the course of his difficulties.

Another win for the film is that it lets the audience see the realities of life as an artist. As talented as these musicians are (and they are massively talented), they struggle just like any other aspiring artist. The financial realities of living in a big city while trying to support a family are harsh. Omar and Gizelle both discuss their children and what they fear when they think about money. But the hope and optimism that they are able to demonstrate, knowing that their Wild Records family supports them is inspiring.

The pacing of the film is great, there’s just enough music cut into the interviews to make you want more. The only real criticism is that some of the more dramatic areas of the film feel a bit false. This is not to say that they feel set-up, more like they feel produced. As if Salomon’s hand was too much in the mix.

The pacing of the film is great, there’s just enough music cut into the interviews to make you want more. The only real criticism is that some of the more dramatic areas of the film feel a bit false. This is not to say that they feel set-up, more like they feel produced. As if Salomon’s hand was too much in the mix.

At 95 minutes this film is the perfect length. The concert footage alone will make you want to jump out of your chair and start dancing. The film ends a little abruptly, but isn’t that an axiom of Rock and Roll? Always leave them wanting more? And you will. If this movie doesn’t make you want to put a record on, you’re probably not human.

[notification type=”star”]75/100 ~ GOOD. If this movie doesn’t make you want to put a record on, you’re probably not human. [/notification]

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I've been working in film exhibition for a very long time. I studied film at university and I watch far too many movies. At least 2 movies a day. I like to think about movies and I like to write about movies. I'm looking forward to doing more of both. I also like kittens.