Euphoria awash in a red glow: review of indie documentary Decks and the City

Writ/Dir/Prod: Glen Scrymgour

Prod: James Corbett

This pumping documentary does exactly what it says on the box. It dives deep into the electronic music scene (symbolically represented by the decks that DJs use) and its impact on the nightlife of the city of Adelaide. The director/producer team, James Corbett and Glen Scrymgour, have pulled together the luminaries of electronic music in Adelaide as well as talking to punters, promoters, and venue owners. The format of the film is a series of talking heads set to a cracking soundtrack and beautifully shot cutaways. 

The sound design by Scrymgour and mixed by Robert Koster is incredible and includes almost fifty tracks from local and international artists. As you would expect, this is the hot stuff. There are times throughout the film that you feel like you're in the dark with the music pulsing. A cacophony of lights and humanity presses you on into the early morning. It's a heady feeling. 

A deck from indie documentary Decks and the City

It took me a while to warm to Decks and the City. The parade of people passionate about music seemed to follow a steady, somewhat monotonous, beat in the beginning. And they were all saying the same sort of thing. Yet, as the film went on I found myself getting to know some of these people and, although it's not my scene, I could identify with their dedication to their craft. Before I knew it the filmmakers had taken me on a journey right through the electronic music scene that was at once deeply personal as people talked about what music means to them and how important it's been at certain times in their life, right through to the perennial issues of music piracy, vinyl vs. digital, and the impact of venue licensing laws. 

Image from Decks and the City indie documentary

The cutaways have a certain liquid quality to them. Most of the B roll is taken in nightclubs and at raves where people are dancing with abandon. There are smiles and looks of euphoria awash in a red and pink and green glow. Who doesn't love a slo-mo shot of people jumping up and down with lights flashing? There are also stunning shots of the city at night: time-lapse traffic flow, the seethe of people. 

The final section of the documentary addresses the 'lock-out' laws in South Australia that require some venues to close at 3am. The interviews look at these laws and their effect from a number of different angles. This is one of the strongest aspects of the film, its ability to portray opposing views and to really tease out some of the issues. 

It's a good-looking production that goes beyond the superficial to examine the tension and nuance in the electronic music scene in Adelaide.


Decks and the City is screening at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival. Follow the Decks and the City Facebook page for news and updates.