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Fatboy Slim and Julien Temple's silent film about Ibiza is "an intervention" for the island

The pair are warning against the over commercialisation and environmental destruction of the White Isle

  • Jessica Leaf
  • 26 June 2019

Teaming up with Fatboy Slim, acclaimed director Julien Temple has brought Ibiza’s history to film, with Ibiza - The Silent Movie.

With Cook acting as musical director, the soundtrack fuses EDM with jazz, piano and a bizarre techo-laden WW2 sequence. Pierced by the sounds of planes and littered with warnings about tourism, the film lays out the often ignored history of the island, dispelling rumours and shrouding it in myths at the same time. Expect Cook classics, archive footage and the odd cameo from Bez

Here, Temple discusses the soundtrack, the challenges of filming in Ibiza and the impact of VIP culture on the island.

At the start of the film there’s a clip of a rowdy Ryanair flight - why was it important to set that tone from the start?

I think one of the themes of the film is how tourism can achieve a kind of overkill situation, particularly on small islands like Ibiza, and there are a huge number of flights arriving on that island.

To me, that’s the irony and the contradiction of what is still a very beautiful place. You know, there are very wild and untouched areas, particularly in the north, but they are flown over by [thousands of] planes in the summer season alone, so that kind of level of tourism is definitely affecting the island.

Would you say the impact of tourism was the main point of the film?

You know, the end of the film is saying where is Ibiza now? It’s almost like the film is a guide, I hope, to clubbers who go there. I would just like them to understand that there is this incredible mixture of elements that make this island so individual and unique. And that it is definitely a place worth saving and not disrespecting, which over-tourism can do if you don’t respect the place.

I think it’s an intervention. The film’s a kind of warning to Ibiza and everyone who loves Ibiza that it does need to have a look at the course that it’s set on and listen to places like Barcelona, where there were huge demonstrations last year. If places are going to remain individual and have such a strong identity and spirit as somewhere like Ibiza, otherwise it can be all washed away in a sea of sameness and that would be a terrible thing.

Do you think if people going on benders to the island saw the film before they went, it would slow down the hedonistic tourism?

I think it helps if people do think about the place a little more deeply rather than just going there and kind of using it in a way without any respect for it, and I think that does happen. I think that happens at the very high end as well as the Ryanair end you know.

I think there is a kind of slight dismay among locals that the island is now being opened up in the winter. At least they thought when the season ends they could go to their favourite beach, but now there are walking tours all over the island and yoga retreats in the winter, you know there’s a sense of just trying to survive all year round, there’s less respite.

Have you been to Ibiza quite a lot, was that the inspiration?

No, you know, I was there in the late 80s and went to clubs as they were then so I had a very vague memory, a memory of a different kind of clubbing experience and a very different island. I was actually shocked when I went back to make the film two or three years ago, it was the first time I went back since the mid 90s.

What was your biggest shock going back?

I think it was in the south, just the extent of urban sprawl that was very different. The clubbing experience too, obviously it’s dance culture and it’s a very vibrant history but it was hard to find anyone dancing in all the clubs. We were trying to film people dancing in the clubs and didn’t succeed even though we tried over long periods. Its mainly people swaying with their phones on the DJ, it’s not people dancing with each other, which was the main point of dance culture in the beginning so that’s slightly sad to see. There are places where people dance on the island but not in those big clubs.

In terms of VIP culture, do you think with some visitors going to Ibiza to be seen or photographed – is there something to be salvaged? Will it be revived?

I think it will. It’s such a tenacious place but you know it's just concentrated because it’s such a small place and the whole of Europe is going there. It would be a shame to see Ibiza abandoned and off to the next Mykonos or somewhere and leave it sucked dry and onto the next place. That would be terrible, I think.

The soundtrack is obviously a massive part of this film and you’ve mentioned before that with the silent film format “music can take over”. Were you ever cautious that the soundtrack would outshine the visuals?

Silent movies have always had orchestras narrating the film with music and that’s what I was keen to do here, with the images and soundtrack conceived of one thing. You can really play with the soundtrack in a way that you wouldn’t want to in a more conventional, dialogue driven film and be very experimental with the sound effects in combination with the music. And you can play the music really loud throughout, you know which is what a club experience in Ibiza is about.

It seemed like a journey through musical time with the progression of history being mirrored with the changes in the soundtrack, like the jazz composition over the Dada phase. Was that intentional from pre-production or did it organically grow?

I think it organically grew really. We always knew that we wanted to tell the story of how different civilisations flourished and disappeared and were replaced by others but I’d much prefer the film come out of a creative journey. Working with Norman was also a really good instructive part of it. We also worked with a young composer – quite a bit of the music was scored by a guy called Joss Campbell who’s a DJ but also a classical composer as well so he’s got a real range to what he does. We did write some of the jazz and some of the psychedelic music was written for the film and stuff like that, so it’s a real mixture of elements.

Norman was very much the club music side of things, suggesting numbers of tracks that I would listen to then I would chose one that I thought would really work with that sequence. And Joss, I worked with differently because I said we needed music for this Roman sequence or we need music for the Phoenician cave sequence, different things.

Obviously this film is similar to your other films, in terms of it being about music, how is it different? What were the different challenges of filming in Ibiza?

Well, the language. I don’t speak Spanish but my son does so he translated for me, it was important for me to talk to the local people and even then some of them didn’t speak Spanish, they spoke Catalan with dialect, so that at times was a challenge. A lot of it was that we were working not with actors, we’d found people on the island to be those characters. Local characters, people who live on the island or come from the island. You know, it’s harder to get a performance out of someone who isn’t an actor but I think they were all pretty good really.

I guess it then seems more genuine right?

There is in the film a kind of what’s true and what’s false. You know the smile of a selfie taker is perhaps not true, it’s a kind of look for that moment in time that isn’t actually who they are but it’s what they want other people to think of what they are. You know it’s that strange moment where a smile clicks into place on the face before the camera clicks.

And that is in the culture where you know people will spend the whole year saving up a lot of money to spend 500 quid on a bottle of champagne and have a selfie taken in Ibiza, it’s an illusion, because you look like you’re on a yacht but really you’ve worked all year to pay a crazy rip-off amount of money for a bottle of champagne. So you know there are levels of that running through both the history but also the present day.

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