MANY people wouldn’t expect to find a thriving heavy metal subculture in Botswana, but Raffaele Mosca’s documentary March Of The Gods: Botswana Metalheads introduces viewers to the growing scene and some of the bands and fans at its core.
Part of this year’s X Fest at Labia on Orange from April 3 to 6, the film saw Mosca and his team spend time with the band Wrust as they faced a variety of challenges, were given the opportunity to play on the same stages as Sepultura and Entombed, and finally to a performance at the SoloMacello Fest in Milan.
Mosca was familiar with the genre when he began filming.
“I’ve always been into metal, punk, hardcore and heavy music in general, but I don’t like to focus my attention only on these sounds; I just like good music,” he says.
But his first encounter with the metal culture in Botswana came about when he saw the work of South African photographer Frank Marshall.
He recalls an interview with E-force, the guitarist of Stane, a band in Gaborone, who mentioned the surprised reaction of people in the West when they found out about them.
“People are too comfortable to explore the outside. Frank did explore the outside and gave us the opportunity to approach this largely unknown subculture,” says Mosca.
“I was fascinated by how they took something that is part of Western popular culture and remodelled it completely, so I felt the urge to know more about the music and the lives behind it. Frank made their personalities explode in the pictures and I love this kind of approach – when a photographer or a documentarist is humble enough to let the subject tell its story.”
The biggest challenges the team faced were working with limited resources and very little shooting time. “The documentary was shot in three frenetic weeks and there were a lot of times I doubted whether we would make it. The bands and the metalheads in Botswana were really helpful. During the shooting we stayed at Stux’s (Wrust’s vocalist) the whole time, it was a constant co-operation between us and them. I was the one behind the camera but this is a collective film.”
The decision to focus on Wrust was made because they were recognised outside of Botswana, and had ensured they were well known in the underground metal world.
“You’ll notice that in the documentary Stux plays the role of the narrator; the guy is really charismatic and his bandmates are some of the best human beings I’ve encountered in my life. We’re still in touch, I like to consider them as friends.”
From the first day of working on the documentary, Mosca and his team knew it would no be complete until they had helped Wrust perform on an international stage.
“It was very easy to work with the guys at SoloMacello. They really believed in this project and gave us all the support we needed,” he says.
While they weren’t able to reach their fund-raising goal, they were able to collect part of the money to cover travel expenses through Indiegogo.
“Luckily it was still enough to help the band in covering part of the travel costs, that’s why I talk about this project as a collective experience.”
Seeing the band’s excitement during their gig in Italy is one of the stand-out moments for the director.
“I felt like we all achieved something that night, it was a moment of unity like no other. We were where we wanted, doing what we love.”
The documentary also features interviews with other Botswana bands – Metal Orizon, Stane, Skinflint, Kamp13, Overhrust, Amok and Remuda, as well as South African outfit Facing the Gallows.
Mosca believes that the appeal of metal to fans and musicians in Botswana is the same as is seen in Europe or the rest of the world.
“There are kids, and some of them like heavy metal. What’s interesting is how they get exposed to metal in the first place. And there’s no straight answer to that. Internet might be one thing but prior to that it was tapes which have probably been copied thousand of times and nobody knows how it really began.”
He suggests that the main difference between Botswana and places like the US and Europe is exposure.
“I strongly believe that what comes in comes out musically,” he says. “Their music is still influenced by early Sepultura, Slayer, Metallica or Cannibal Corpse. The more they are going to be exposed to new sounds the more they are going to incorporate it in their music and evolve. The problem is that very few foreign bands get to play there so it’s hard to get your hands on new music.”
Mosca will be in Cape Town for the screening and is looking forward to seeing how X Fest attendees react to their film.
l March of the Gods: Botswana Metalheads will be screened on April 5. For information, see www.march ofthegods.com or www.xfest.org