Five Films That Celebrate Electronic Music and Rave Culture

by Ross Hunter

To celebrate the successful reincarnation of STREETRave at Ayr Pavilion by local DJ Ewan McVicar, we’ve chosen five films that explore and revere the cultural phenomenon of electronic music. Expect to see some well-known classics, underground gems and fast-paced visual spectaculars that embrace the energy, hedonism, creativity and passion synonymous with the world of rave and dance.

Starting with something closer to home, BEATS successfully distils the essence of the mid-90’s rave culture in Central Belt Scotland. Johnno and Spanner, two disaffected teenagers, embark on a journey of self-discovery as they experience their first rave. The film leans heavily into nostalgia with a techno soundtrack curated by JD Twitch of Optimo and a faithful attention to detail in terms of costume and location, shot entirely in black and white. The absence of a big-name cast brings us along on the journey, allowing us to feel a part of the events as the night unfolds.

Raving Iran follows two friends and DJs as they throw parties, avoid police raids and distribute underground mixtapes under the oppressive rule of the Iranian Government. Anoosh Rakizade and Arash Shadram risk prison sentences in order to bring like-minded lovers of dance culture together in clandestine raves in the far-out desert. This tension-filled documentary shows the political power and impulsive nature of self-expression of dance whilst maintaining a sharp sense of humour and never forgetting what lies at the heart of their dangerous and anarchic activities: pure, unadulterated joy.

It promised it all: the greatest party on earth in the Bahamas, on Pablo Escobar’s island, with the world’s biggest DJs in a setting of exotic luxury. But in between the jet skis and Ja Rule endorsements, the glossy veneer of the salesmanship began to peel away, leaving Instagram’s answer to Lord of the Flies in a tropical monsoon as the fake festival descended into the rioting of the pampered and privileged. This documentary is told by those who witnessed the chaos first-hand and tried their best to do anything (as one particular scene demonstrates) to bring order to the chaos.

Based on the Grammy-winning album Woman Worldwide by French house duo, Justice, Iris: A Space Opera is a visual feast that takes place in a gargantuan, reflective studio space. Iris frames the music from the album in bold, exciting ways, taking inspiration from classic 70’s sci-fi films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey. The action is interspersed with arresting cosmic animation that doesn’t shy away from its trippy rave aesthetic origins. The live music film successfully captures the mood and magic of Justice’s music and presents it beautifully on-screen.

A classic. Steve Coogan plays the charming and troubled visionary Tony Wilson, a man who manages to take a dilapidated warehouse on Manchester’s canal front, a financially crippled record company and a collection of uncontrollable musical mavericks and turn them all into a legendary Mancunian cultural zeitgeist. As well as document the rise and fall of the Hacienda nightclub, Michael Winterbottom masters the cinematic alchemy of successfully bringing the different elements of clubbing life together to present the associated feelings of a culture on film. The film stands as a legacy to an important subculture and celebrates the virtues and flaws that made it possible.