March of the Gods: Botswana Metalheads (2014)
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.
There is a stark contradiction at the heart of Raffaele Mosca’s documentary showcasing the heavy rock movement in Africa. Whether that contradiction is intentional or not is more difficult to ascertain as the tone of the film switches from admirable respect to sad judgement on more than one occasion.
Predominantly following heavy / death metal band Wrust, March Of The Gods: Botswana Metalheads introduces the viewer to a musical world that most will know nothing about …
Predominantly following heavy / death metal band Wrust, March Of The Gods: Botswana Metalheads introduces the viewer to a musical world that most will know nothing about. In many African countries there is a hard rock scene that while almost underground in its existence draws a passionate and committed following. Gigs are extremely common but the distances bands and fans must travel can but up to 1000km, determining that only the true followers are in attendance. With this exclusivity comes an insular style and mentality that will be alien to most western rock fans. Dressed more like biker matadors the leather-clad head-bangers drink to excess while sporting studded cowboy hats and are adorned with a variety of animal skulls. Glastonbury this is not.
The interesting element to this is with the conviction that they describe themselves. Many of the band members are inherently amateur (many having joined bands unable to even play instruments) with day jobs ranging from police officers to mechanics, the music being a passion and to some extent an expensive hobby. The fans all seem keen to dismiss the myth they are all Satanists, a myth that was never proposed until mentioned by the fans themselves. This gives the impression of them revelling in their notoriety while still insisting they are all still just normal people.
The real problem comes in the final third though, and is where the contradiction lies. Despite extolling the virtues of the rocker life it becomes more apparent that all is not as peaceful and innocent as it was initially made out with the hardcore fans.
The real problem comes in the final third though, and is where the contradiction lies. Despite extolling the virtues of the rocker life it becomes more apparent that all is not as peaceful and innocent as it was initially made out with the hardcore fans. Rumours of intimidation and aggression are spoken of, and the camera at one point lingers on somewhat sad scenes of fans becoming drunker and drunker as no-one seems to pay much attention to the band performing. The fact that the gig itself appears to be in a dilapidated garage with just around 30 people in attendance adds to the strange disillusionment of the whole thing, making it appear very insignificant and desperate.
When it is then revealed however that Wrust are jetting off to play at a rock festival in Milan some semblance of success is revealed. Perhaps all the hours and money invested in small, repetitive gigs is worth it when the chance at a sniff of fame and fortune is in sight?
It is difficult to know if the filmmakers support the movement or see it as slightly tragic, with the same bands playing the same venues for the same people, year after year after year. There is clearly a comradery between the bands, a sense of fighting for the same cause, but as is summed up by several voices towards the end of the film; nothing is changing, nothing is moving on and the people are not learning. When viewed as an outsider, March Of The Gods is relevant in presenting a culture not seen before, yet doesn’t present it interestingly enough to warrant further investigation.
When viewed as an outsider, March Of The Gods is relevant in presenting a culture not seen before, yet doesn’t present it interestingly enough to warrant further investigation.