Welcome to Wonderland

Ecgecentral Review By Dr Graham St John

Welcome to Wonderland is unique in the world of psy-trance documentaries. I've had the privilege of viewing a lot of psy-trance documentaries in recent times. Many are promotional - they are endorsements for event organisations or particular artists. Many are full of bravado, bristling with machismo and boasters embodied by DJs portrayed as shaman priests. But if shamanic consciousness is apparent in psy-trance, and quite a few propose that it is, it would be discovered right there on the dance floor: where egos are dissolved, limits trespassed and identities transformed. Like no other film on psy-trance culture Welcome to Wonderland penetrates this difficult membrane, exposes the organic machinery, and captures the heart of dance, or more specifically, the social characteristics of modern trance dance.

James Short's film about the Melbourne psy-trance scene, a product of 6 years work, does not sell itself as an ethnographic film - but it passes as one nevertheless. And it does so because it is a grassroots film, dedicated in its pursuit of a milieu of people from various backgrounds and ages, through some of the most outrageous, intimate and self-annihilating moments of their lives. Recording comments and gesticulations with careful attention to detail cut to a fine sound track, the film enables participants to narrate their stories and allows viewers access to the 'participation mystique' momentarily transparent in the primal real estate between the speaker stacks at majestic bush and forest locations at Australia's Rainbow Serpent and Earthcore Festivals. The film records a momentous locomotional transit into the new millennium at the Earthcore Millennial party at Lake Eildon. With a great score that includes work by Sugar and Ben Last, and an excellent series of 'extra' dance montages and interviews, this film should not be missed by any trance enthusiast or indeed anyone interested in electronic dance music culture.

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