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ROME 2020

Review: We Are The Thousand


- Anita Rivaroli’s documentary about the tribute paid to the Foo Fighters by 1,000 musicians offers a snapshot of a musical event that oozes pure joy

Review: We Are The Thousand

Who are the greatest rock band in the world? The answer to this question couldn’t be clearer for fans of the Foo Fighters, and We Are The Thousand [+see also:
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, the documentary directed by Anita Rivaroli which is screening within the Reflections section of this year’s Rome Film Fest, opens precisely onto the evocative and moving image of all these fans/musicians performing together.

Rewind upwards of five years and Fabio Zaffagnini, a geologist by trade, is wondering how to convince the Seattle-sprung alternative rock group to hold a concert in Cesena. The answer is simple: by doing something crazy. Like getting 1,000 musicians to come together in one place and perform as one.

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Fabio and his team create a website revolving around one sole message: “We have a plan, it has something to do with the Foo Fighters”. Countless emails later, in mid-December, a somewhat ambitious crowdfunding campaign kicks off, aimed at raising 40,000 Euros with a view to assembling 250 singers, 150 drummers, 250 bassists and 350 guitarists, and performing one of the Foo Fighters' easiest songs, "Learn to Fly". They will make a video of their performance and send it to the band spearheaded by the infamous Dave Grohl. The fans/musicians interviewed by the director seemed enthusiastic. "I had to be there”, one sixty-something man insisted.

The auditions commence and online coaching tutorials are developed by “guitar guru” Claudio and others. They set about readying Cesena’s Hippodrome Park for the event. Their sponsors, displaying their usual bravery and thirst for adventure, have vanished. The sound engineers are in a panic: sound travels at 340 metres per second and the first drummer will be 40 metres from the last… All hopes of synchrony fly out of the window.

Meanwhile, punk rockers, bluesmen and metalheads begin to file in from all over Italy, their ages ranging from six to sixty years old: office workers, labourers, architects, doctors, bakers, fire fighters, graphic designers, IT specialists… There’s even a master mariner! Just listening to the sound check, in the company of conductor Marco Sabiu, is enough to give goosebumps. There’s only one word to describe all this: joy. It’s not a masturbatory rock-out, it’s a collective act, a zen event, a unanimous demonstration brought about by a desperate need… Something different, in other words. Anita Rivaroli excels at finding that one person in a million. Someone confesses in front of the cameras that music has stopped them taking the wrong path in life. “If paradise exists, this is how I imagine it”, enthuses another.

At this point, the film’s first chapter ends. The director fades into darkness and treats us to a stylish, black and white, slow motion sequence of the musicians in action. The video is uploaded onto YouTube and it immediately goes viral, clocking up 15 million views in three days. Even CNN are talking about it, and all of those involved - from Brazil through Japan and on to the US - congratulate one another: the video’s views reach 26 million. For several days, The Thousand become the biggest group on the planet (though not bigger than the Foo Fighters). Grohl sends a video response, speaking in Italian, thanking them and then threatening: “We will come.” Fabio Zaffagnini flies to the US and meets Dave. Here, we see a real star enter the picture but, frankly, it’s the documentary’s least exciting part: the fans remain the true protagonists of this happy-ending tale, as exemplified by the song: “When I learn to fly (high), Fly along with me, I can’t quite make it alone, Try to make this life my own”.

After the Foo Fighters’ concert in Cesena, new messages begin to flood Fabio’s inbox: “When are we doing it again?” Now, Rockin’ 1000, “the biggest rock band on Earth”, is a veritable project, bringing together thousands of musicians from all corners of the globe.

We Are The Thousand is produced by Indyca in collaboration with Rockin’1000, Les Films d’Ici and New Lanark, and is supported by the Film Commission Emilia Romagna and the Piemonte Doc Film Fund. I Wonder are releasing the picture in Italy between 25 and 28 October.

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(Translated from Italian)

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