Bridgeman & Jamie Catto
Does the end justify the means?
Two white guys - musicians with connections, at that - travel with state-of-the-art technology to as many countries as they can get to in a six-month period. Their mission: to encounter, speak with, and record as many fellow artists, musicians, thinkers, entrepreneurs as they can to capture culture, if you will. But many of the musicians and artists they encounter live in countries devoid of such privilege and technology. They live in countries where the majority of citizens lack safe homes or access to medicine and education, much less a state-of-the-art laptop computer. Are these privileged men taking advantage of those peoples' culture - the one solid thing they do have?
It's a fine line to walk, the tightrope between explanation and exploitation, between a valiant attempt at spreading the word and sharing a good thing you've found rather than just wanting to take advantage of something spicy and new and foreign for your own glorification. That argument might hold some water if it wasn't for the video aspect of 1 Giant Leap, which demonstrates a profound moral message - without being heavy-handed or hypocritically preachy - about the unfairness of life for so many in a world where so few (like the purveyors themselves) have so much.
Even the means of delivering this message - its unexpected packaging and structure - has created suspicion. These guys are infiltrating the system in so many ways, through content and context: they've broken the restraints of traditional film narrative, traditional music video structure, traditional sound recording all of which makes the whole thing so much more interesting but at the same time difficult to talk about because it so defies explanation. It simply must be experienced.
And sure enough, those who have witnessed 1 Giant Leap are embracing the thoughts and truths their minds are being opened to via this music and the images (released on CD and DVD by Palm Pictures). "My Culture", the big single released off the album, topped charts in Europe; the project served as opening act for UK sensation Coldplay on an intimate venue tour of North America this August and currently is continuing to tour around the world.
But first, flashback to May 2002 and the story of how it all began: In Los Angeles for the U.S. premiere of the film - its segments edited down to give viewers a taste of what's in store on the full DVD - Jamie and Duncan discussed and demonstrated the pure motivation that drove them to a one-of-a-kind achievement.
It was incredible to see the project on the big screen, especially witnessing how the crowd handled it. Your work provoked a very un-LA reaction - people here can be so jaded and stoic...they don't let their feelings out and instead just kind of sit there and look at everything from a really distant point of view.
Duncan: It was amazing on that level because there's a lot of preconceptions that we all have about different places in the world, preconceptions we have about what happens when you go to Africa and what the Africans are like. And when you get there, you realize that they're just like everybody else, but they have a different way of speaking, a different way of dressing, and maybe a different way of eating. And again, the preconceptions about LA, especially for an English person, are exactly what you said - that it's a shallow place full of shallow people trying to grasp at success.
Jamie: But that's just a surface-level thing; it doesn't take very much prompting. Like last night was a great example.
Duncan: That's what I was going to say, yeah - that last night we had the example that our expectations of LA might be one thing, but we don't know! People say, "It was so un-LA," but for us, it was just, "Wow! LA is full of people who are questioning and who are up for sharing their emotions!"
Jamie: It was very big! All the roles - the celebrity rank and status - vanished for that hour. It was beautiful!