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The Mighty Uke DVD Review

The Mighty Uke DVD Review

I expect a fair few of you have seen Mighty Uke already. They’ve been touring the film around and it’s been shown at a number of festivals. As a matter of fact, they are planning a tour of the UK later this year so if you’d like to host them at your uke group send them a message here.

For those of you not familiar with it. Mighty Uke is a documentary charting the history of the ukulele and the current uke boom. It has interviews with Jake, Shimabukuro, James Hill, John King, Dent May among many others.

The DVD is released this month and Tony Coleman (half of the team behind it with Margaret Meagher) was kind enough to send me a copy for review.

The Good Stuff

An enjoyable watch: It’s a very pleasant way to spend 79 minutes. There’s plenty of good music, lovely archive footage, and lots of ukulele friends (and one enemy). By the end of the film I was dying to pick up my ukulele and get playing. Definitely well worth a watch for anyone interested in the ukulele.

The Shorts: Easily my favourite part of the DVD. There are ten little segments of between one and a half and ten minutes each focusing one group or individual (and one on Martin ukuleles). Outside of the film – where people have to fit into the narrative – you get a much clearer sense of individual personalities and motivations. So Taimane loves being centre of attention, Steven Sproat sits alone under a tree wanting to show the bigger boys that the ukulele could be as cool as Nazareth and Pink Floyd, The Langley Ukulele Ensemble are pulled from their beds and marched single file at great speed whilst spraying notes everywhere.

To get a flavour of these, you can watch John King short here.

Quoteables: There are lots of little nuggets in the film (many of which I intend to steal). My favourite comes from Aaron Keim: “No one ever failed the audition for the ukulele band then quit.”

The Not So Good Stuff

The Inter-what?: It’s a little unfair to criticize films like this for what they leave out. It can’t just be a long list of everyone who has ever played the ukulele. It’s an independent film so there’s not enough money for IZ’s music and it’s quite focused on North America. And some people just don’t want to take part (the UOGB declined). The fact that it isn’t comprehensive doesn’t diminish it at all. Except…

How you could possibly cover the current ukulele boom without a single mention of the internet? I realise I’m completely biased in this respect, but to my eyes the internet has played such a huge part in the spread of the ukulele that it’s impossible to ignore. If you think I’m too deep into this to recognise the truth that no one cares about the net, let me know in the comments.

One big happy family: The film’s central theme is that the ukulele brings people together and players love strumming in a big circle and all ukulele players are happy and well adjusted and if everyone played the ukulele there wouldn’t be any war and… OH MY GOD I WANT TO PUNCH SOMEONE IN THE FACE!

I’m a maladjusted, loner, bell-end and that doesn’t stop me playing the ukulele. Sometimes all this group-hugging makes me want to go back to playing the guitar where it’s acceptable, even encouraged, to roll with the badass-outsider/reclusive-genius image.

Overall

Mighty Uke is a very enjoyable film. If it’s rolling through your town, definitely go see it.

As for shelling out $30 for the DVD (or $35 for international orders), I’m a little more circumspect. It didn’t inspire me enough to warrant repeat viewings. But if you have uke-ignorant family and friends that you want to lay some knowledge on, get a copy and show it round. There’s no better way to introduce non-ukers to the ukulele world than watching Mighty Uke. And by the end they’ll want to play themselves.

The Mighty Uke is released on DVD on 28th September. You can pre-order your copy here. The Mighty Uke team are planning a tour of the UK later this year so if you’d like to host them at your uke group shoot them a message here.

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