Watch Walk it Home exclusively on Red Bull TV on October 29, 2015.
As a documentary about an upcoming band put up by the company that signed them, Walk It Home is undoubtedly a piece of marketing material. And while it does spend some time romanticising its subjects and showcasing their sounds, the doco is more than a hollow advertisement and is an enjoyable journey regardless of your familiarity with the band. By not just showing how adoring their audience is and instead observing its musical duo as they experience and discover new things, you feel like you’re travelling along with them and get to know them much more authentically.
Walk It Home follows Nader Mansour and Eddy Ghossein, who together make up the Lebanese Blues/Rock band The Wanton Bishops, as they make a musical pilgrimage to where their genre originated, in America’s deep south. After introducing us to the duo and giving us a sense of their presence in their home country of Lebanon, Walk It Home spends most of its time chronicling their trip as they indulge in America’s bluesy culture.
While music unsurprisingly plays a huge part, Walk It Home feels more like a travel doco then a musical bio, with Mansour and Ghossein hosting and teaching us the history and culture of their music through conversations with American blues-fed natives. The most satisfying thing about the film is watching the pair revel in being where it all began, marvelling at the way the music intertwines with the culture and the ready availability of beautiful instruments and music they would struggle to find, let alone afford, back in Beirut.
But Walk It Home is careful not to dwell too much on the differences between America and Lebanon, rather it embraces the similarities, flashing back to Lebanese equivalents of whatever they are experiencing. This place fits the pair like a glove, with them playing and swapping stories with incomparable local talent. There is an elegant exchange taking place, as their musical and social similarities allow them to connect instantly, while the cultural differences and experiences being swapped enrich both the duo and the musicians and everyday people they meet along the way. Some moments come dangerously close to feeling a little staged, but that’s somewhat to be expected and they’re thankfully pretty rare.
Walk It Home is an advertisement for the band, but it opts to sell them by introducing their tone and flavour rather than focusing too much on individual songs or blowing (too much) smoke. The deep, homegrown, rocky soundtrack lends a meaty flavour to the film and jumps to diegetic for the band to jam where opportunities arise, then seamlessly retreats back from the foreground when they are finished. Walk It Home carries its rich tune from start to finish, with some very minor genre diversions here and there, leaving you tapping along with the entire film.
So, as an atmospheric travel piece Walk It Home does quite well, and as promotional material it’s excellent, but it does fall a little flat in terms of narrative and character. Discussions on Beirut’s history feels surprisingly inconsequential in the way it’s presented, and doesn’t really relate to the film as well as it probably should. It does allow for some fun little contrasts and comparisons, but ultimately this is more of a travel vlog than a socio-cultural endeavour. Likewise, Nader and Eddy are perfectly fine hosts (especially Nader, who really leads the show along), but while the film tries to hint they are teasing at something profound and melancholy, really they are just two guys excited at the opportunity to be up close and personal to something that has defined them from afar.
Make no mistake; Walk It Home is a commercial for its band The Wanton Bishops. But the way it chooses to showcase them is simply by letting the pair take us somewhere fun and interesting. Not essential viewing by any stretch, but it’s surprisingly entertaining – even if you didn’t think you had any interest in the band or the type of music they play. The goal of the film is simply to introduce Nadar and Eddy to us, and they’ve found a wonderful way to do so.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10