Border City Music Project – Local documentary challenges technology/status quo

Noam Chomsky with director, John Gillies

As the final frame flashed across the screen, a quiet hush fell over the audience, followed by the rapid-fire murmur of a thousand questions being whispered at once. What did we just experience? What was the film about, and what were we supposed to take away from it? This conversation appears to be exactly what local filmmaker John Gillies was anticipating from his new documentary, Border City Music Project – an ambitious project that tells the story of our collective experience with technology and the importance of living in border towns through a musical lens.

Noam Chomsky with director, John Gillies
Noam Chomsky with director, John Gillies

Those of us who planned on seeing a detailed expose on the music scene that exists in Windsor and Detroit – or at least the increasingly strained connection between the two – were left confused once the final curtain fell. While the film features a number of our favourite musicians (including members of Gypsy Chief Goliath, Inoke Errati and Big Sugar, as well as the film’s co-producer Dusty D’Annunzio), the importance of music to the narrative was more subdued than expected for a film named Border City Music Project. As we came to find out, that was just a part of the greater story that the filmmakers were trying to tell.

That story, of course, focuses on the overwhelming influence of technology on the way that we live as a culture. According to Gillies, the film is a subtle reflection of the world that we live in – a world where people rely on things like Twitter and Facebook to inform them about the global state of affairs, and are becoming increasingly distant in person while building their personalities into a simulated online reality. He’s urging people to challenge the status quo; to seek out reliable alternative sources for their news; and to actively participate in culture instead of absorbing it second-hand through a computer screen.

When viewed in that lens, the Border City Music Project is a small-scale success, using beautifully detailed cinematography and high-profile interviews to build a terrifying view of the culture that we’re becoming – a stumbling collective of robots, crouched in our respective corners and forgetting what our humanity looks like at its core. While it serves more as a collection of cultural snippets and philosophical ideas than a cohesive message, the importance of the message the filmmakers are attempting to convey shouldn’t be dismissed by the film’s lack of direction. Regardless, supporting local musicians and filmmakers is important, and that fact alone should be worth the cost of your admission.

We hope that viewers will find their way to this conclusion themselves, and take the time to put their phones down and have a meaningful human conversation long after the house lights come up. The revolution has already begun – it’s just waiting for your attention.

By Andrew Bell