VOD film review: WITCH: We Intend to Cause Havoc
Matthew Turner | On 03, Jul 2021
Director: Gio Arlotta
Cast: Gio Arlotta, Jacco Gardner, Nic Mauskoviç, Emanyeo “Jagari” Chanda, Victor Kasoma
Where to watch WITCH: We Intend to Cause Havoc online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
It is a little known fact that, in the 1970s, Zambia had its own music genre, known as Zamrock. The key proponents of the Zamrock sound – a bit of blues, a bit of psychedelic funk, a bit of garage – were a band called WITCH, whose acronym stood for We Intend To Cause Havoc. Today, however, the genre is all but forgotten and the band members are mostly dead, although WITCH’s lead singer – Emanyeo “Jagari” Chanda – is still very much alive.
Gio Arlotta’s documentary begins with the director’s discovery of some of WITCH’s albums, sparking a desire to know more about the band. Accompanied by young Dutch musicians Jacco Gardner, Nic Mauskoviç, Arlotta travels to Africa and tracks down Jagari, who’s now making a living as a gemstone miner.
Through Jagari (pronounced “Jaggery” – his nickname is an Africanisation of Mick Jagger) and a few other interviewees, Arlotta traces the formation and the history of WITCH, though the film is severely hampered by the lack of surviving footage of the band. Still, that does at least lead to one of the film’s best moments, when Arlotta and co begin trawling Zambian TV archives and unearth some terrific concert footage of James Brown in concert.
It’s a shame that there’s barely any footage because, by all accounts, Jagari himself was quite the stage presence, leaping and gyrating about with an oversized hat on his head. Arlotta makes clever use of animation as a substitution, but it mostly leaves you hungry to see the real thing.
Eventually, Jagari is persuaded to reform the band (accompanied by the two Dutch musicians), go on tour again and even record some new music, but the film’s structure is all over the place, so this is presented rather haphazardly and matter-of-factly, rather than progressing chronologically via build-up and emotional pay-off. In other words, it ought to be a deeply moving Searching for Sugar Man-type story, but it increasingly resembles rather half-hearted tour footage, shot by someone who was annoyed at getting lumbered with the camera.
It doesn’t help that Arlotta gives a grainy texture to some of the present-day footage in a misguided attempt to generate atmosphere. Instead it backfires and becomes increasingly confusing, as some shots are grainy and some aren’t.
On the plus side, Jagari is charismatic and good company, although it does seem as if his contributions and anecdotes start to get a little samey after a while and there’s very little sense of his interaction with either Arlotta or the two musicians, despite the amount of time they spend together. Still, the music is terrific – on hearing it, you instantly understand why it inspired the film and it’s the sort of thing that will have you scouring Spotify and YouTube for hours afterwards.