For a documentary that aims to be a comprehensive history of the modern dance DJ, What We Started tends to be both as enthused and unfocused about the whole scene as the average young EDM fan addled on molly.
Filmmakers Bert Marcus and Cyrus Saidi trace the evolution of the DJ back to the golden days of disco, which led to spin men in Chicago and Detroit molding and shaping house and techno music. This sparked a worldwide electronic dance revolution, complete with illegal raves, police cracking down on drug use, and decknicians who believed they could actually make a living playing records and making people dance.
Started follows the journeys of two DJs as a framing device: Carl Cox, the legendary U.K. jockey who’s been spinning records since the Eighties, and Martin Garrix, a teen Dutch wunderkind who headlines major festivals and represents the new era of rock-star DJs who work more with laptops more than actual vinyl. (This doc is basically Comedian for people who still wear JNCO jeans.)
Having covered the EDM scene throughout the years, I know there’s a lot more to the story than What We Started gets onscreen. The filmmakers purport to give equal time to legends like Pete Tong (who serves as both an executive producer and music supervisor on the movie) and Paul Oakenfold, but what about the DJs from the trip-hop, jungle, and drum-and-bass scenes? And are we just gonna overlook Kraftwerk and the electro-funk movement it inspired? Or that time in the mid Nineties when artists like the Prodigy and Fatboy Slim brought electronic music into the mainstream? What We Started is a cute roundup of how EDM came to be, but much like the DJs it shines a light on, it only scratches the surface.
What We Started
Written and directed by Bert Marcus and Cyrus Saidi
Opens March 23, Village East Cinema
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 21, 2018