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Canadian Film R.I.P. A Remix Manifesto is the World’s First Open Source Documentary

March 19, 2009

“Culture Always Builds On The Past“ is the remixer’s manifesto, as proclaimed in the world’s first open source film RIP: A Remix Manifesto, currently playing in Canadian cities. The film celebrates and practices open source innovation. Montreal-based director and the creator of the Open Source Cinema website Brett Gaylor has created tools that empowers audiences to participate with filmmakers.

The film is revolutionary in that it makes the source files available and encourages the public of to remix them for use in the finished product. Many early crowdsourcing experiments that emerged in the halcyon days of the form existed simply for the joy and curiosity of exploring such a novel phenomenon. Though Gaylor clearly loves the spirit of remix, R.I.P. makes a statement about the public’s right to innovate, and rallies lightheartedly against what is seen by many as set of overreaching and dated copyright laws.

Open source – files, code or whatever – empowers people to break out of the consumer’s mold to become a producer, using the building blocks of expression – notes, words, code and images – recycled from past cultural expressions. This defies iPod culture, delimited by digital rights management that directs the public on how they may use media they have purchased.

Gaylor’s documentary follows remix artist Girl Talk, who delights the kids with pan-genre mashups. He creates infectious percussive effects by slamming… for example, a digitally spliced bit of Lil Wayne into a slightly processed chunk of Sinead O’Connor, all of which loops crazily into a satisfying Queen guitar hook, and so forth, creating something that just works. The juxtapositions are incongruously hilarious, ironically nostalgic and larcenously innovative.

Gaylor and Girl Talk’s works contend that art belongs to a public commonwealth when it comes to innovation. It makes the assertion that the transformative process of the mashup constitutes the spirit of fair use, and this argument has seen precedent. The analogy they use is that Muddy Waters built on spirituals sung by field hands, Led Zeppelin built on the blues of Muddy Waters, and now Girl Talk is building on his the work of his predecessors with contemporary tools.

Gaylor joins the ranks of “copyfighters” Cory Doctorow, Michael Geist and Richard Stallman, creator of GNU software, a fundamental element of the Linux operating system. The Canadian in me is proud that this was made with the help of the National Film Board.

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