Though the production value was lacking, the story was not. GRU-PDX catalogs how a Brazilian rock band finds its musical way while describing the amazing musical scene of Portland, Oregon. I actually pulled out some pen and paper half way through the film to write down the names of bands I’ve never heard of, even though I live in the city. It opened my eyes to how musically diverse Portland really is, even if nowadays Portlanders take it for granted with all the hipster hype that surrounds this city.
The movie switches between two stories: the artistic struggle of the Brazilian band Quarto Negro, and how the gritty, indie music scene of Portland, Oregon came to be. Mixed in are interviews of famous band members from The Dandy Warhols, The Helio Sequence, and Modest Mouse, and there are riveting performances from lesser known bands such as Radiation City. These sparse but captivating music videos showcase the city’s talent as guitarists strum their instruments on the docks of Astoria, or within the walls of vacant Oregon prisons. These moments of raw musical immersion help liven up a sometimes static exposé of a Brazilian band that seems to be the intended focus of the film, but isn’t. Instead, Portland and its musicians steal the spotlight.
Filmed by one person on a DSLR, the production value can sometimes be distracting, whether due to distorted audio, out-of-focus subjects, or shaky camera movements. However, the overall story and the subjects interviewed help us, the audience, look past these minor issues. With a creatively interwoven audio recording that helps unify all the film’s moving pieces, GRU-PDX is a testament to the fact that anyone with a camera, and a knack for storytelling can create something beautiful, regardless of the resources at hand.