Bananaz: A Film About the Virtual Band, Gorillaz
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In the late 1990's Jamie Hewlett met Damon Albarn and the concept of Gorillaz was born sometime after. At the birth of the project, film maker Ceri Levy set about to document this undertaking. The result is Bananaz, 91 minutes inside the remarkable real world of Gorillaz, the most successful animated band ever.
Levy filmed alongside and behind the scenes from 2000 to 2006, from first drawings, animations, music and the musicians, through to the faces behind the voices of Murdoc, 2D, Noodle and Russel Hobbs. The result is an unsanitised, free-wheeling documentary film; an intimate, honest and often hilarious account of the working relationship between Albarn and Hewlett. With appearances by many of those who occasionally pass through this world ; Dennis Hopper, De la Soul, Ibrahim Ferrer, Dangermouse, Dan the Automator, D12, Bootie Brown and Neneh Cherry.
“The Rock n Roll Swindle of our generation”
Jason Solomons Observer
Bananaz, a film about a virtual band Gorillaz will show at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this month.
The film removes the virtual walls of Gorillaz, a cartoon band created by artist Jamie Hewlett and musician Damon Albarn. Audiences see just what Ceri Levy saw over some many and varied months of shooting from 2000 to 2006.
Bananaz is Levy's story of the partnership and community behind Gorillaz. He takes you on the road with this virtual phenomenon and shows a part of Gorillaz never seen before - reality. As one radio interviewer puts it, "It's a parallel universe - these guys aren't in the band but they know the animated characters who are".
Bananaz is an honest, at times hilarious account of the working relationship between Albarn and Hewlett. A free-wheeling film which teams these two likely lads with friend and film maker Ceri Levy.
Featuring Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett, Dennis Hopper, De la Soul and Ibrahim Ferrer and Ceri's camera.
Gorillaz is the most successful virtual band ever, fronted by four wildly talented but totally disparate characters: pretty-but-vacant singer 2D, satanic bassist Murdoc Niccals, Japanese guitar prodigy Noodle and amiable man-mountain drummer Russel Hobbs. Formed in 2000, their eponymous debut album was released to international acclaim and 5 million plus sales. Gorillaz were crowned Best Group at the 2005 MTV Europe Awards and received 5 Grammy nominations and 2 Brit Awards nods. Their second album, Demon Days has sold 6 million albums worldwide.
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Bananaz: Dir. Ceri Levy
Shot over six years until 2006, Bananaz follows the evolution of Gorillaz from an idea hatched one night between two friends, Blur frontman Damon Albarn and designer Jamie Hewlett, to a multi-million selling, Grammy-winning, genre-straddling, virtual pop group. "People take themselves way too seriously in the music industry," explains Albarn near the start - who might at times be included by others in that bracket - "so Gorillaz for us is an antidote to all of that." For example, the constant references to garbage bags and trash cans. Thank Blur for this - we found a huge box of various trash bags in the crawl space at the art studio, and started using them for everything. I had no boots, so when it snowed I wore the latest fashion - black boots made from garbage bags. When it rains, none of us have rain gear so we gravitate to the bags. We took a picture of us all wearing trash bag clothing and boots and it says it all. Gorillaz takes that kind of attitude with everything.
Now that Gorillaz and their spin-off simian sibling Monkey have conquered the worlds of pop, art and opera, it's easy to forget how difficult, how alien, the concept was to some at first. "Britpop taught me how difficult it is to be experimental in this country," sighs a frustrated Albarn.
What is evident from the early footage is that the pair were also partly making it up as they went along, and the gestation and birth of Gorillaz was as testing as that of any group. From embryonic sketches, we see the characters and personalities of 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel develop and how their caricatured relationships are as fractured as those in any other band. "Murdoc put Gorillaz together, it was his idea," explains Hewlett, "[but] he didn't actually get the job of being the lead singer, because he isn't very handsome. So 2D got the job, which is always going to piss him off."
The subplot involves the relationship between Albarn and Hewlett -half innovative alchemists and half chain-smoking, tousle-haired, early middle-aged, competitive alpha males, who can't believe that millions have bought into their private joke.
After pulling off a live Gorillaz show at the Apollo in Harlem with a cast including De La Soul, Shaun Ryder and an endearingly nervous Dennis Hopper, even Albarn is a little lost for words. "It's another wow, really... in a series of wows."
Bananaz is online from 20 April at www.babelgum.com and released on DVD on 1 June