Italian filmmaker Raffaele Mosca certainly has a wide range of musical tastes. From Pig Destroyer, a grindcore/death metal band from Virginia to Gaslight Anthem, a punk rock group from New Jersey, to name a few, the decision to travel to South Africa to make the documentary March of the Gods: Botswana Metalheads is interesting.
After he graduated from Fondazione Milano, a school that trains people so they can work in the television, film or new media industry, the jobs did not come easy. He jumped between London and Milan a lot before he finally said, “Fuck it. I had to shoot this movie. I owed it to myself.”
Not only was producing this documentary was one of him testing himself but also that to prove that he can craft a full-length feature film documentary on a limited budget.
This movie was shot in three weeks and the crew was small. The people involved in pulling this project together pulled double duty. Mosca was not only the director but also the cinematographer. I got a chance to talk to Mosca, to ask him what drew him into crafting this product and get answers in areas this documentary did not necessarily directly address.
Where are your tastes in music? Are you a metal head yourself?
I don’t consider myself a Metal head, I just enjoy music without caring about genres and labels. In my playlists you’ll find bands like Jeff Buckley, Carcass, Red Fang, The Roots and Myrkur.
How involved was Frank Marshall, the photographer whose work inspired yuou, in the making of your film?
I met him for the first time in Pretoria where we arranged to shoot his bits for the documentary. We had several chats before starting the production, he was very keen in helping us and gave me a ton of useful info and tips on the scene in Botswana.
He introduced me also to Edward Banchs, a young writer from Pittsburgh who’s travelling around Africa to write a book called “Heavy Metal Africa.” He had already visited Botswana and gave me a ton of information and support.
How many heavy metal bands are there in Botswana?
It’s hard to tell. There’s a nucleus of 4-5 historical bands that influenced all the others. [That’s because] towns in Botswana are scattered on an area as big as Texas with just two million inhabitants in the whole country.
Most of the bands are located in the Gaborone area (capital), Francistown (second largest city) and Maun (a northern town in the Okavango delta), all of them very far from each other.
How did you come to the decision of focusing the story on Wurst?
Because of their story and their sound. You have this band coming from literally the middle of nowhere that in a few years manages to get shows as an opening act for Sepultura, Carcass and Entombed in South Africa.
I’ve been told they were also pretty close to opening for Megadeath in Poland one time – it’s a pity they didn’t manage to get the funds [presumedly, needed to travel there – Ed.]
When they talked about how some of their culture’s folklore is lyrically ingrained in the music, do you think that’s a common feature to most of the music of this land?
Unfortunately not in the metal scene, just two or three bands – Metal Orizon, Skinflint and Wrust (up to a certain extent) – explore these themes. But there are a lot of traditional bands or dance groups that do. Tswana people are really proud of their culture.
How rich is their mythos?
The indigenous people of Botswana are the San, otherwise known as Bushmen. Their culture is ancient, deeply connected with the environment they live in and extremely rich: from their peculiar hunting techniques to the use of trance state for religious purposes and their amazing cave art.
Unfortunately they have been pushed outside their ancestral lands, and their heritage and role in today’s society is not acknowledged by Botswana’s government.
To know more about it please check this link from Survival International:
In the music you heard, what are the common themes you heard?
There are no common themes, every band has it’s own.
Do you think Wurst has the chance to become an opening act for Metallica or Iron Maiden (as an example) in the next few years?
Who knows? But is it really useful to become an opening act for such big names? I wonder how does it feels to be on stage knowing that 10,000 people can’t wait for you to get the hell out…
What I hope is for them and the other bands from Botswana to establish themselves as a reality in the international heavy metal underground, to be able to tour intensively especially in their own continent to make the African scene grow even more.
What do you think is unique to the Botswanian heavy metal sound?
They are starting to include elements from their folklore, that’s what will make them unique and different from European and American bands.
The only group that is really original and unique musically is Metal Orizon, they were the first to mix traditional sounds and beats with western music.
I hope more bands will follow their example.
What animal skull is used in the posters?
It’s a baboon’s skull, there’s a story behind it but you have to watch the movie to know it. 🙂
What is your future plans for this documentary film? That is, would you like it to continue in film festivals?
I’m trying to create a VOD package, the movie is available on marchofthegods.com thanks to VHX and on Indieflix, plus we’re still receiving requests from festivals.
I love festivals because they usually spark a debate around the film and that’s the most beautiful thing.
Do you have any final words you like to say?
Thanks for your interest in March of the Gods – Botswana Metalheads. I created a coupon code for the readers of Absolute Underground to get the movie for $2 instead of $6.
You can head to marchofthegods.com and enter the code “Absolute Underground” when requested in the buy section.