[VIDEO PREMIERE] The Bats, Simpletons

By Marc Swadel

The Bats' new video, Simpletons, puts the band in the middle of the Christchurch red zone. Video director Marc Swadel shares his thoughts about the project.

I was contacted by Paul Kean of The Bats to make the video and we discussed some ideas. Both of us found the idea of filming something a little deeper than a band playing instruments for the camera appealing.

The song itself is not about he earthquake - but about self awareness, and in the video we see The Bats walking and standing in the heart of the red zone. The band's mute observation of the destruction of Christchurch is told in a series of close-ups. The emotions of being in the centre of the CBD - and seeing the city's heart gone - clear in the faces of the band.

Originally I thought we would never get the green light for the red zone but Linda from CERA was really accommodating, we had a small window and went for it. Singer Bob Scott flew up from Dunedin and we donned the hi-vis and hard hats and crossed the barriers.

We were restricted on numbers so producer Nic Pegg and I were the full crew. We had to lug the jib, tripods, camera, monitors and lights in ourselves, but the results were worth it.

The clip also incorporates stunning images taken by local photographer David Mckenzie - images that he managed to get in restricted areas, documenting the destruction in a strong poetic way.

What made me make this video?

I used to live under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius in Naples, Italy, and used to spend a lot of time wandering behind the scenes at the archeology digs at Pompeii.

A moment frozen in time. Buildings are broken and cracked and lie as they were at that moment, but time has passed, and nature and the ravages of nature and man have taken over.

The ruins of Christchurch are as classical as those of Pompeii, or the damage wrought by bombs in London, and document a moment in time that in time will be erased, by the reconstruction of the city.

There are so many cleared spaces with empty buildings. It's quite cinematic and evocative. Where there were once buildings steeped in history, there is now a blank canvas.

People have memories. Memories of the city as it was, but it is important to record it as it is now.

In the future, Christchurch will be anew, reborn, and with very little to
show the scars and rubble from which it was re-born.

In a way it is societal archeology, it is respecting the loss of life, the buildings, a city that is gone. It is recording a memorial, that resonates deeper than the images as they fall onto the lens.

Some of the places we went to hadn't been touched since the earthquake - evidenced by a can of coke left by a park bench. Tables with coffee cups and plates with remnants of food sitting there with cutlery askew as the diners ran for safety. The tank in the fish shop with crayfish, long since expired, floating In the murk of the fetid water.

I remember interviewing Regina Spektor in New York in the early 2000s, and she talked about her sense of dislocation, from growing up in Soviet Russia, leaving when she was eight, then returning post-glasnost - to find a McDonald's next to he Kremlin and the cold war truly over. Everything she grew up with was gone.

She was a child of the Soviet era, and her home was in a sense gone forever.
In the same way, having grown up in Christchurch, and returning post quake - the sense of dislocation is acute. The record stores, venues and hang-outs I knew - are all gone.

My Christchurch, and for many people the emotional memory scape of the city is gone - something that was as seemingly permanent like the southern alps - is no more - and how easy it is to forget what was where now.

While all this sounds bleak, one amazingly cool seed of hope and rebirth presents itself. In the video, like in real life, the Shand's Emporium building which is the oldest in Christchurch (1851) miraculously survived the earthquake - while all the buildings around it have fallen.

The little wooden two story pioneer building, which pre-earthquake was hemmed in by multi-story modern buildings is now sitting alone, with virtually nothing left standing for 100 metres around it, save a building across the street which will get pulled down soon.

I am just happy to be given the chance to document the city as it was in 2012. In the historical scale of things the period when it is in ruins is not huge and twenty years from now images like this video and David McKenzie's photos will be a crucial record of Christchurch's history. I can show my kids what the once wrecked city looked like.

*Simpletons is taken from The Bats' Taite Prize-finalist album, Free All The Monsters.


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