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15 dance music films you should probably watch

Written by on 18th April 2020

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1. HIGH TECH SOUL: THE CREATION OF TECHNO MUSICHigh Tech Soul delivers the history of techno as told by those living, working, creating and dancing in its motherland: Detroit. Absolutely essential viewing that profiles the originators as well as later waves of artists coming out of Motor City.


If you’ve ever got high and gone to a club with your mates then you’ll relate to this. Human Traffic is every amazing Friday night you’ve ever had distilled into a feature film. The planning, the scrambling for tickets, the travelling, the come up, the come down, the pill romance, the pointless pill chats, some fucking cracking one liners that no one ever remembers the morning after… Cult classic status thanks to Mr Nice shouting “boooomshanka” and Danny Dyer sitting on the crapper with a tinnie hollering “Nice one bruvvvvvvva”.


London film squad Don’t Watch That went out to Chicago to film a defining documentary about footwork, the genre that’s blossomed in the city since the late 90s. The team spent time with Teklife, the footwork crew founded by DJ Spinn and the late, great DJ Rashad. This film takes a trip to the dance halls, basements, studios and front rooms of the genre’s key players (including Rashad) to learn about its history, how it’s made, the competitive dance battles that it soundtracks and its spread beyond Chicago city limits.


During the 80s, film student Jennie Livingston spent seven years documenting New York’s ballroom scene, interviewing the drag queens that ran it and filming the epic competitions that went down in the city at the time. Paris Is Burning is legendary because of how deep and detailed it is, an amazing portrait of a culture that revolves around music and dancing but also gender, sexuality and politics too.

5. GO

This A-list-filled crime comedy follows the intertwining events that take place following a drug deal formulated by a girl who sells aspirin instead of ecstasy at a warehouse rave in order to pay her rent. Flashbacks and a furious pace make up a whirlwind feature length film soundtracked by some 90s heavyweights including Fatboy Slim and Justin Robertson. Despite its Hollywood status, it’s actually pretty good.


Yeah, yeah, we know it’s The Swedes. But this tour film came out in 2010 as the trio were starting out on their journey to total world domination. Sure, Axwell, Ingrosso and Angello were all fully established artists by the time they formed The Swedes, but the group would take them into the stratosphere. As such, this doc shows them full of pomp, living out of suitcases and smashing parties. It’s worth a watch because you wouldn’t get an insight like this now; they’d make sure the result was far more polished. As such, Take One is a very real look at life on the road, superstar tantrums and all.


In perhaps the most extensive exploration of Northern Soul, this documentary gathers insights from some crucial figures including Geno Washington and Bill Brewster – the author of ‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’The Way of The Crowd shines a light on the influences that helped shape one of the purest music scenes to date. Covering everything from the innovative dancing techniques, the fashion and the music that became fondly associated with the North of England in the late 1960s and early 1970s.


This classic British comedy is about two teenage friends called Kevin and Perry who go to Ibiza to lose their virginities. Hilarity ensues throughout thanks to their social incompetence and raging sex drives, which render them useless at life in general. They bumble around rather endearingly, getting into all sorts of bother before finally getting some nookie on the White Isle. Everyone in the UK and their parents and their grandparents has seen this one, which was released in 2000 and stars Kathy Burke and Harry Enfield at the height of their comedy powers. It was also a time when superstar DJing had reached its first mammoth peak and dance music had fully infiltrated pop culture, so it’s kind of generation defining but, sadly, far too cringey to watch these days. Give it a go if for some reason you’ve never seen it.


If you have a passing interest in ghetto house or a fully fledged obsession with it, then this is the film for you. It’ll fascinate newbies and comes packed with enough detail to keep the heads happy. Taking in the history of Chicago’s ghetto house, this documentary looks in to how it was created, how it evolved (ie. sped up!) and what it means to the generations of dancers that embraced it and used it as an escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.


Soulwax’s tour movie is a cut ‘n paste job just like the DJ sets of the band’s spin-off, 2manydjs. Footage flies past with strobe-like intensity, mashing together places, people and various funny situations which range from the chuckle-inducing to the totally surreal. Perhaps more noteworthy for its format than its content, Part Of The Weekend Never dies is a lively, 100mph portrait of brothers David and Stephen Dewaele and their musical project that ruled indie disco for a long time in the 00s.


The concert film captures on camera what so many dance music enthusiasts have been enjoying for over twenty years across the world. Don’t Think documents The Chemical Brothers’ appearance at Fuji Rock Festival in Japan in 2011, with 21 cameras recording the mind-boggling audiovisual live show. The film is every bit as spine-tingling as the same titled album, and the immersive psychedelic screen visuals take viewers on a journey supported by some of the duo’s greatest hits.


“Jungle is about making music adults hate and kids love,” the late Peter Harris of label and shop Kickin’ Records said in this 1994 documentary. And the kid’s did love it. Especially M-Beat and General Levy’s ‘Incredible’, which took the genre from the underground to the Top of the Pops stage the same year this was filmed. Focusing on jungle’s black cultural roots, “young computer genius” Shy FX features, as do UK Apache, DJ Rap, LTJ Bukem and Fabio. It may be extremely dated now but it’s one for the knowledge bank if you want to be clued up about one of Britain’s musical treasures. Find out why General Levy pissed off some of the key players, too.


There’s no summer like the summer of 1989 when it comes to dance music in the UK. While Germans were celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall and students in China were protesting in Tiananmen Square, baggy-clothed youngsters in the UK were off their nuts on E, flailing limbs to acid house in fields, aircraft hangars and wherever else there were DJs and a fuck-off soundsystem. This BBC doc explores that long, hot summer to find out how it all happened. From the effect of Margaret Thatcher’s government and rival football hooligans calling a truce on the dancefloor, to yuppies cashing in on the movement and the eventual police crackdown, this was the Second Summer of Love.


Music Nation saw Dazed and Channel 4 team up for a series of documentaries providing an insight to some of the most significant scenes in electronic music. Ewen Spencer’s Brandy & Coke kicked off series one, covering garage in the late 90s/early 00s, and the other episodes delved into Ibiza spilling into the Home Counties, Bristol’s bass culture, punk-inspired hardcore and jungle. The second series was a fine follow-up, with the Dizzee Rascal, JME and Kano-featuring grime special, Northern Bassline, Glasgow’s punk rock in the 1980s andBritish Asian Rave. That’s plenty of insightful ammo to fuel your boredom.

15. EDEN

Everyone knows the story of the DJ who starts out scratching around making beats in their bedroom and ends up flying round the world, playing to tens of thousands of people a night all the while getting showered in millions of dollars and attention from supermodels. And if you don’t, you can catch up on it when the Zac Efron EDM vehicle We Are your Friends is released this summer. But what about the guy who doesn’t make it? Which, let’s face it, is pretty much all of usEden, released in the UK next month, tells the story of a French DJ who plays a pivotal role in creating the French Touch sound only to end up bankrupt and alone dealing with a crippling cocaine problem while his peers Daft Punk go on to become, well, Daft Punk. But it’s not all doom and gloom. The film features a killer soundtrack, cameos from Tony Humphries and Masters At Work vocalist India and some of the best clubbing scenes ever committed to celluloid. Unmissable.

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