Romas Zabarauskas introduces us to the underground electronic scene in his native Lithuania in this his first feature, dealing with issues the liberal youth of today face. Corruption, racism and... more homophobia intertwine with a story of family relations, love and friendship, all set to a heavy beat.
Carefree DJ Luke (Ebeneezer Nii Sowah) leaves behind New York City for the Lithuanian capital, Vilunius, to meet the grandma he’s just discovered he has, a grandma, hidden to him because she wouldn’t accept her son’s marriage to a black woman.
It doesn’t take Luke, with his smouldering look and quiet confidence, long to find himself a girlfriend –self-confessed “party girl” Marta (Beata Tiškevič). Nor does he have any difficulties finding a place on the music scene, getting involved in the council’s plans to set up a club for the city. But his success is cut short by the shady Mayor.
Music has a vital role in the film, not only in the club scenes but in just about every scene. We’re supposed to feel its presence, and the onscreen action often interacts with it, playing with what’s part of the soundtrack and what’s diegetic –part of the film. The camera work also plays with the music, showing shots of Vilnius’ rooftops and picturesque architecture in time with the beat.
The young director got many Lithuanian DJs involved, such as Boyfriend, winner of the Alternative Eurovision prize at FACT magazine, and Justas Fresh. The love that the clubbers have for the beats is infectious. Music is a serious business, especially for Andy (Šarūnas Zenkevičius), manager of the Beat Makers, but business in the commercial sense. For him, music should not be commercial. It seems, rather, to be a way of life, a way of easing the difficulties life throws at you.
Lithuanian culture, not often seen on the big screen, is given a voice in “We Will Riot”. At times the electronic beats are replaced by traditional music. The film also touches on the character of Lithuanian society, subtly suggesting that the country’s open-mindedness is on shaky foundations, hinted at by Andy’s reluctance to openly express his homosexuality and the racism of Luke’s grandma. The naivety of those who think these problems are no longer real is shown when Marta laughs: “Gays can’t be racist!” Could this be true? The film shows us that it isn’t so easy to dish out labels.
But there is a vibrant youth desperate for change.
“We Will Riot” gives a fresh twist to the tragically unchanging theme of youth with ideals, facing the tough reality of ‘the system’.
DIRECTOR and SCREENPLAY: Romas Zabarauskas
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