If a concert film can be emotional and even require a tissue, Roger Waters The Wall is it.
Roger Waters, the Pink Floyd co-founder marked his 71st birthday at the Toronto International Film Festival Saturday (Sept. 6) night for the world premiere of this unique live concert documentary. The film takes his strong anti-war stance and interweaves a highly personal mission into concert footage from his 2010-2013 sold out The Wall Live tour, which actually started in Toronto.
The 133-minute documentary, which includes all 26 songs from Pink Floyd’s 1979 album, The Wall, is still seeking a distributor.
“The only difference in the movie is that I’ve made a road movie about visiting the graves of both my grandfather and my father — well, my father doesn’t have a grave because his remains were never found. He died in 1944 at Anzio [Italy] in the Second World War, but there is a memorial to him which during the movie I visit,” Waters told Billboard before the screening.
“I basically visit all kinds of serious iconic places with friends of mine from the past, in this movie. I hope that that road movie is integrated within the context of the concert movie we’ve made and serves to accentuate some of the points that we made in the concert.”
Waters worked closely with co-director and co-writer Sean Evans, the creative director on The Wall Live and previous visuals designer for Waters’ 2006-2008 The Dark Side of the Moon Live tour and his opera Ça Ira.
“It has to do with his impetus for writing The Wall,” Evans says of the narrative component to the film. “It’s all one big circle and it’s great how it all ties back.”
In The Wall Live — based on the songs from Pink Floyd’s classic double album, The Wall, and subsequent tour — Waters hammered home the idea that war is commerce and the immense cost in human lives. The stage show includes military costumes, animation of fighter planes and bombs, and dozens of fan-submitted photos of people all over the world whose lives were lost to war in this last century.
The original album and Alan Parker’s legendary 1982 film were based on the destructive life of an isolated rock star whose father was killed in action during World War II.
“I wrote this piece nearly 40 years ago. It came to me a few years ago that it had a broader message than the original message of the whiny guy who spat at the kid in Montreal in 1977,” Waters says, referencing his notorious reaction to a disruptive fan during Pink Floyd’s In The Flesh/Animals tour.
“And it has a more universal message, which is passionately anti-war, believing that war is a business — Smedley Butler’s whole ‘War Is A Racket.’ It’s all about people making money. It actually doesn’t help the people who are expected to be collateral damage — and most casualties in modern warfare are civilians.”
Like the concert, the documentary includes all The Wall songs in chronological order, but Waters’ road trip makes the message more powerful. He is not just looking at war from the outside; he knows firsthand the lifelong pain such loss has on the families of those left behind.
As the end credits roll, he respectfully shows all the photos of fallen loved ones.
After the screening, Waters did a 25-minute Q&A session, telling the audience at the Elgin Theatre he hoped this new film version of The Wall is “more universal and ecumenical and anti-war and humanitarian than the original version that I did with my much loved old colleagues from Pink Floyd, Dave and Rick and Nick.”
He added another hope — that we’d “find a different way of organizing our politics and our commerce that don’t require that we murder each other.”
“Because we are all brothers and sisters under the skin and above it,” he says. “I know it sounds ridiculous to say, but it’s super important that we stop lopping bombs over the top of the wall and start trying to dismantle it so that we can say ‘Hi’ to whoever is on the other side, whether the divide is religious or nationalistic or political or economical.”