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By Alex Garcia Topete
DIFF writer



Music has powers that many people may fail to recognize. Music can evoke deep memories and provoke deeper emotions in ways that pictures or words cannot. Music can enhance other pieces of art, from the instrumental score of a movie to the ambient sounds of a museum. Music can also define a location, be that a specific venue or a city at large, while also being a product of that location and the culmination of that place’s identity.

THE STARCK CLUB and WE FROM DALLAS, films from the Dallas International Film Festival’s Deep Ellum Sounds category, capture precisely the type of influence and symbiotic connection of music and place by presenting chapters of Dallas’s music scene that until now were mostly unknown to people who didn’t experience them personally.

“Music is a very regional thing, I believe most cities or regions of the world have some genre of music they have made their own, from the zydeco sounds of New Orleans to D.C. go-go to west coast funk or seattle grunge, the list goes on and on,” says WE FROM DALLAS director Teddy Cool——and yet, Dallasites made hip-hop of their own when other cities such as Los Angeles or New York may have the spotlight.

In his documentary, Cool shows (not to say proves) to audiences that Dallas did play a role in the development of hip-hop as a cultural phenomenon in the 80s, perhaps not spawning many big stars and recognizable names but without a doubt making a contribution to the music. East Dallas particularly, although all of the city and its suburbs played a part one way or another, served as “the location” for the hip-hop movement led by DJs and producers who wanted to make music the way they wanted, which included their city as the source of inspiration and their base of operations.

Even when making music meant working in rag-tag music studios set up in regular houses, that all contributed to giving their music an authenticity that other hip-hop hotspots lost soon.
Nonetheless, the story belonged to those who lived it until Cool decided to make the documentary. “One of the biggest challenges of the film was tracking down some of the guys from the 80′s scene. Pikahsso played a huge role in helping us find people and turning us on to people we hadn’t heard of,” commented Cool. Sometimes the buffs need some help with their research, one could conclude. But that also hints at the fact that the music scene in 80s Dallas wasn’t about the makers but about the music itself.



Other times, however, the music can be as important as the location where it can be found—and that was the case for the Starck Club in Dallas during the 80s. The rise and fall of the infamous nightclub comprises the focus of STARCK, another film of Deep Ellum Sounds making a music-location connection. The nightclub, while in Dallas, seemed to be a world of its own, which the documentary thoroughly emphasizes. “The DJs of the club were playing music that hadn’t been heard in America. The club was not Dallas. It was more international,” said Michael Cain, co-director of the film. Partially because of the European origins of several people involved with its beginning (including its French architect Philippe Starck), and partially because of the rebellious and daring nature of its founder Blake Woodall, indeed the Starck Club became the epicenter of a new wave of thought that championed open-mindedness, experimentation, pleasure, excess, freedom from the norm, and an it’s-cool-to-be-a-misfit attitude—all which made for a perfect mixture that allowed outrageous and memorable parties at the club thanks to the diversity of people that found that environment intriguing and inviting right in the middle of conservative-yet-aspiringly-cosmopolitan Dallas.

Patrons, from regulars to curious one-timers, can be counted in the hundreds, which is a testimony of the impact of the club and the music that invested it with a unique spirit. “The biggest challenge for us was getting the trust of the people who lived the story,” said Cain. But once the filmmakers accomplished that, the response was far beyond what they had expected, and almost past of what they could handle. What had started for them as research for a fiction film or a TV series quickly turned into a project with hundreds of hours of material from more than 125 interviews from people involved with the history of the Starck Club. At one point, the filmmakers decided to crowdsource some testimonials via a website, and the outcome was overwhelming: more than 3,000 people shared their Starck Club memories.

There’s a similarity between the stories in WE FROM DALLAS and STARCK, as well as the making itself of STARCK—the significance of normal things can become larger than intended. Dallas DJs and music producers who just wanted to make their music became an influential movement of the American music scene. A Dallas entrepreneur, a French architect, and handful of collaborators simply aspired to create a different nightclub where people could be themselves, and yet, that became a symbol of the spirit of the 80s in Dallas and a life-changing experience to everyone involved with it. Michael Cain summed up that overall theme pretty well: “Anytime you have a dream or goal you want, the dream you were thinking is not exact [because] it can be bigger.”


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