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Disappointing but still beautiful
on 18 December 2002
Given the blurb and factoring in the extremely powerful music on the original "1 Giant Leap" CD, this should have been a life-changing, tear-inducing film, that inspired its viewers to go out and change the world for the better. Unfortunately, it is not.
Made by two musicians, Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman, who travelled the world sampling music, the film is divided into twelve chapters, each examining a particular issue facing the world at large today: war and sex are two of the most obvious examples. Footage of the pair's journey around the world is accompanied by the music they created and by shallow interviews with extremely minor celebrities that they met en route, on the topics in question.
I was expecting "1 Giant Leap" to be a living, breathing version of Yann Arthus-Bertrand's Earth From The Air photographs, a thought-provoking work with an understated agenda to make the world a better place. Instead, the film plays more like a series of home movies belonging to a minor celebrity who's just come back from a particularly long safari - which, in essence, is precisely what it is. The same production values have not been applied to the film as to the album; where Catto and Bridgeman successfully enhance and complement the ethnic music on the soundtrack, the opposite is true of the images, which are seemingly intercut at random, often badly synchronised to the sound, frequently irrelevant to the topic of discussion and occasionally repeated in other parts of the film. The images themselves are beautiful - sometimes profoundly so - but they just do not serve the overall purpose of the work.
The worst thing about "1 Giant Leap", though, is the selection of interviewees on display, some of which are obscure and some just plain inarticulate. In order to make a film that sets out to challenge the viewer's belief, the people doing the convincing need at least to sound credible.
Another, similar disappointment is that the locations visited, whilst sometimes exotic, are also occasionally bland (the London Underground, for example) and this juxtaposition sometimes jars. There are also fewer locations than might initially be supposed; a glance through the Credits section on the DVD shows that many of the artists and contributors are interrelated, so the scope is not as wide as might be assumed.
The DVD has been thoughtfully put together. In fact, the film is not a single film at all, but a series of twelve films, each of around ten or fifteen minutes in duration, which can be accessed individually, in a loop or in a user-defined order using a "juke-box" function. There is also plenty of behind-the-scenes footage, much of which consists of the musicians rehearsing or preparing. Additionally, the two excellent singles from the album (My Culture and Braided Hair) are both included. The soundtrack is extremely lush, with a particularly powerful bass emphasis that shows off the often superb ethnic drumming to best advantage. Nonetheless, it is hard not to be disappointed by a film that promises so much.