Interview with Pavel Abrahám and Tomáš Bojar
You say that the rapper is a documentary filmmaker. In your approach, the meanings in these “documentaries” are not fixed though. Will you present rappers in your film in a similarly loose way?
We will, you can't do it any other way...provided you don't want to give yourself up to film violence and shut living people in the prison of fixed meanings. It would be especially damaging in the case of rap that continues to surprise us with its energy and unpredictability. But all this is not to say that we don't prepare individual sequences with certain consideration. In the whole framework of the film, they are something like “bomb fuses” and we have only a little influence over them. Beyond a certain point, we become just a part of an upredictable chain of events. When we hear our “documentary filmmakers” rap “my folks taught me to speak, out of five thousand picks, Czech is what I got, it is rich, it is hot...”, the lyrics lead us into the Prague centre, to the statue of Josef Jungmann. In his time he saved the Czech language also for the rappers who now come to honour him. They give him a dictionary of all their playful neologisms that enrich the language, and they are exposed to the inquisitive looks of the passersby. It's hard to predict the exact development of a situation, but without a doubt our rappers are able to turn even the most common situation into a spectacular event. They keep playing with words, they look around and immediately react to what they see. Rap is not performed only on stage, rap keeps bursting from them. As “documentary filmmaker” James Cole puts it: “I pack my stuff in a snap, my socks, my briefs, my rap.”
Language clearly plays an important part in your project...
That's true, it is almost as important for us as for the the rappers. They keep reflecting on language, some are proud of the fact that they “name things and believe in the power of words”, others doubt whether they're not merely “assholes who screw up the language and rape words for the sake of rap”. That's why we also brought in a linguistics professor to show the rappers what their language reveals about them, what words it is based on, etc. Listening to rap lyrics is the starting point for us and in this sense rap defines the limits of the film. The camera turns to whatever the lyrics talk about, yet the point is not to illustrate the text too literally but to let it bounce off of the living reality. Places and people of the Czech Republic are shown in a different light thanks to our “speakers” from the Czech RAPublic.
Besides language, sound composition is the other essential part of rap...overlaps, work with individual sounds, mixing. Will these principles find their way into the film language?
Definitely. We agreed with commissioning editor Jan Gogola Jr. that this won't be a film about rap but that the film itself will become rap. Most tools of expression should follow this approach and the most important adjustments will clearly happen at the level of editing. Which is not to say that we're making something like a monstrous, spectacular music video. You mentioned “overlaps”, which is quite precise; we're interested in watching a hip hop DJ and his flowing set, how he lets one track overlap the next one, and creates a new meaning out of two finished tracks. He's looking for new ways to use familiar forms. In a similar way, using videographic editing we'll be searching for new connections between rap lyrics, the documentary aspect of the film, stylized sequences and a whole range of cultural references. There will certainly be overlapping and that's why juxtaposition – however formally approached – will also become an important narrative feature.
We've been talking about the shape, form and composition. Will the film give any indication of a time framework? The hip hop movement in our country has gone through much development...
The development has been overwhelming. In those memorable times “one nine nine three to nine eight, when things still kept going straight”, the life in the Czech RAPublic was completely different than today. The journey from the hip hop underground all the way to sold-out arenas, magazine covers and television has involved some funny twists. The boys who only a few years before loitered and from time to time painted a train gradually became stars, with crowds of fans who flip over their lyrics. At the same time, it still isn't too easy to live with the identity of “rapper” in everyday life. For example, when they're looking for a flat to rent, they can't just tell the owner that this is their job and prefer to mumble something about a “job at a recording studio.”
Who will be the “documentary filmmakers” in your film?
Besides the main “documentary filmmakers”– Orion, Indy, Hugo Toxxx and James Cole – the film will feature, for instance, Dáda Patrasová or Czech President Václav Klaus. There are a lot of rapper-actors out there. They're everywhere around us. The British band The Herbalizer once said: “Everybody is a rapper, every rapper is an actor.”