Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Given that one of the main reasons former Blur frontman Damon Albarn became a founding father of "virtual band" Gorillaz was as to gain more creative freedom in the form of anonymity, this backstage look at the musicians behind the cartoon band, will doubtless be lapped up by fans.

Founded in 2000 by Albarn and comic artist Jamie Hewlett (probably best known for his Tank Girl comic strip in the 1990s), Gorillaz – a wildly disparate animated four-piece comprising satanic bass player Murdoc Niccals, Japanese child prodigy Noodle, dopey lead singer 2D and hulking drummer Russel Hobbs (presumably named when the lads were fixing some early morning coffee) – were intended to be an "antidote" to the boy/girl bands prevalent at the time.

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"People take themselves way to seriously," Damon says, early in the film. By the end of the runtime it's obvious that although he takes the business of making music very seriously indeed, he's more than happy to let filmmaker Ceri Levy into just about every inch of his life – in between his bouts of creativity and smoking (he never seems to drink anything stronger than water) he is seen puking through nerves and peeing as he holds a conversation.

This is a straightforward fly-on-the-wall look at Albarn and Hewlett – and a host of top musicians including Ike Turner, Del La Soul and many more - as they prepare the self-titled Gorillaz debut album and follow up Demon Days, as well as taking their cartoon show on the road.

Everything about this film is rough and ready, from Albarn's repeatedly failed attempts to throw a fag up to his mouth and catch it – "he'll be doing it with arthritis at 98," says Hewlett – to Hewlett horsing about for the camera and one of the roadies dumping his motherload, equipped with attendant smell, into the dressing room loo. The film stock, too, is extremely grainy, but fans of Gorillaz will doubtless enjoy its edge.

The sound is excellent, throughout, and Levy's seemingly endless access gives a rare look at the sheer force of talent and energy that goes into putting the Gorillaz on the road. It also paints an intimate portrait of Albarn and Hewlett at their off-the-wall best. This is a bit grubby around the edges and a little too long for those who aren't ardent fans, but nevertheless a vibrant and pixieish look at a pop phenomenon.

Reviewed on: 18 Jun 2008
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Backstage look at the brains behind Gorillaz.

Director: Ceri Levy

Starring: Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett, De La Soul, Ibrahim Ferrer, Dennis Hopper

Year: 2008

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2008

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