A group of NY musicians make a pilgrimage to Serbia for the world's largest trumpet festival.
They say that when the festival begins, time stands still, as once a year half a million brass fanatics descend upon the sleepy valley town of Guča, Serbia for the world’s largest trumpet festival. Brasslands follows a group of musicians from New York who’ve been playing together for over thirty years, as they make the pilgrimage to Guča to compete in the spiritual home of Balkan music.
Brought together by a mutual passion for traditional Balkan music, Zlatne Uste—an intentionally questionable rendering of Golden Lips— were the first non-Serbian band to play in Guča, in 1987. A lot has changed since then, both in the lives of the musicians, as well as in terms of the relationship between the USA and Serbia, but the frantic, gutsy spirit of the music has always provided a common bond. While the band has always taken the folkloric traditions of the music seriously, the film approaches the issue of cultural appropriation with a rare sense of clarity, delicately intimating the role of music in fostering cross cultural understanding.
As the festival commences, Brasslands bears witness to the deeper resonance of the music, as the town of Guča begins to swell with frenetic energy. The festival seems to offer a fleeting moment of togetherness— a utopian space in which differences are suspended and all that matters is the sounds of the trumpets. But just under the surface of beer-fueled revelry, the enduring political and cultural divisions which have plagued the Balkan countries since the dissolution of Yugoslavia, continue to simmer. Without judgment or criticism, Brasslands explores the underlying tensions in a country still bearing the scars of a turbulent past. The film scrapes the surface, revealing a fiercely proud nation grappling with its identity and position in today’s world.
To accompany the screening, Rooftop will be hosting our very own brass festival. Even if you’ve never even heard of Balkan music before, get ready to book your trip to Guča, because once the joyous timbre of the trumpets gets inside you, it’s pretty hard to resist!