While I expected to enjoy a documentary about five outstanding DJs being put out of their element, I certainly didn’t expect the Grammy-backed doc to be one of the best of SXSW. Based on a very simple premise, Re:Generation is an absolutely beautiful documentary that is more about the process of creativity than any commentary on the state of music (though there is some of that too). Pairing five DJs —  Pretty Lights, DJ Premiere, Skrillex, Mark Ronson, and The Crystal Method — each with their own individual contrasting genre and artist(s), the documentary manages to stage five very different stories that capture five very different creative processes. Carefully selected, you’ll see Mark Ronson pair with a group of New Orleans Jazz players as well as Erykha Badu and Mos Def in a butter-smooth process that seems to effortlessly birth an excellent track. Meanwhile Pretty Lights and Skrillex and The Crystal Method (which is to say, the electronic artists) all manage to find some kind of conflict when they move out of their one-man-one-machine worlds and work directly with old-school artists. In the case of Skrillex and The Doors, it’s simply a matter of finding common ground and appreciating each other’s perspectives, whereas with Pretty Lights you see a young, insular artist battling with the folk hardheadedness of the legendary Dr. Ralph Stanley. In the case of DJ premiere there is not so much conflict as an perspective-widening educational process, where an artist must step up to a learning curve to make something great happen.

Each of these stories are interwoven beautifully, with each given due time while keeping the overall pace breezy. Your appreciation of the individual songs may vary, but the general payoff off the documentary is superb, with some truly masterful editing tying up the journey for each artist and integrating glimpses of the process into the final performances. Not all of this is sonically groundbreaking stuff — pop dubstep has always crossed over with rock, while classical movements have been turned into hip-hop beats for decades now — but what you can learn about creativity is definitely novel. This is the best-looking, best-sounding glimpse into the creative process you’re going to see anytime soon.

–Renn Brown

NOTE: You can currently see this documentary in full on HULU.

Re:Generation Music Project Details:

Director: Amir Bar Lev

Music: Mark Ronson, DJ Premier, The Crystal Method, Skrillex w/ Members of The Doors; Pretty Lights

Re:Generation Music Project is a documentary film about original music collaborations that examine and re-imagine the history of different musical genres through the eyes of five of the most influential electronic producer/DJ’s in music today.

For the film, Mark Ronson, DJ Premier, The Crystal Method, Pretty Lights and Skrillex each take a specific musical style and explore it by writing and recording a brand new track with an influential collaborator in that genre.

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