I have no idea why the word "documentary" has somehow been connected with the word "boring" over the past several decades, but I see lots of VERY entertaining docos as part of my festival exploits. Oh sure, the Oscar-givers like to focus on the "important" documentaries that deal with stuff like war, sex, religion, abortion and the Holocaust, but if you know where to look, you can find stacks of docos that are more than content to focus on issues that are A) light, B) amusing, or C) musical. (Here's a hint on where to look: Film festivals like SXSW.)
Paul Owens' Blip Festival: Reformat the Planet covers A, B and C, although it's focused mainly on the third option: Music. Specifically, music that is created by a small but passionate group of misfits who create some fantastic tunes using nothing but (ready for it?) old-school video game consoles! Yep, that goofy old Super Mario Bros. jingle can be turned into one kick-ass techno tune in the right hands, and these unapologetic gaming geeks seem to be having a great time turning great old games into funky new tunes.
Blip Festival takes us into the world of 8-bit "ChipTunes," and you'd be surprised to learn that this new sound is actually quite a bit bigger than it sounds. (I'm not sure if it's exactly the "new punk movement" that one interviewee calls it, but if a bunch of folks are getting together to create / share / enjoy a new form of music, that's good enough for me.) Set mainly in New York City, the documentary introduces us to some of the major players (techno-musicians called BitShifter, Glomag, and Bubblyfish, for example), offers us a slick intro to the musical style, and then invites us into the Blip Festival -- the spot where the planet's best 8-bit tune-writers congregate to show off their stuff.
All in all, a perfectly entertaining and legitimate look at a new musical trend that's certainly a bit weird ... but no less a form of music, all the same. Plus, as another one of the interview subjects points out, it's rather novel to see a few people using antiquated technology to create something fresh and unique. In today's upgrade-obsessed world, that's pretty cool. Frankly, I think the 8-bit music is pretty damn catchy, but I'm a long-time video game addict and big-time fan of catchy dance tunes, so perhaps this scrappy little flick just hit me right in the geek zone.
Plus, you gotta admit that old Super Mario Bros. theme is pretty catchy all by itself. (For more info on Blip Festival, check out the official site.)