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I Am a Camera: Interview With Charlie Inman, Documentary Maker

28/08/2014 14:07 BST | Updated 27/10/2014 09:59 GMT

"A lot of people don't realise how important Gilles Peterson has been to Brazilian music," says Charlie Inman, "so I wanted people to know of the global impact that he's had."

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Unafraid to board a plane at a moment's notice armed only with a camera and his London nous, Inman is of a new breed of film-maker who, through expediency alone, finds himself helping to re-write the rules of documentary film-making. He also bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Stanley Kubrick, but that is by the by.

As a film that documents the making of an album that was green-lit by Ted Cockle of Universal Music, Inman's Bam Bam Bam: The Story of Sonzeira works as a tocsin for a music industry caught in the throes of death. Filmed in the run up to the World Cup, the film avoids a clichéd wallow in all things associated with futebol; ergo, post tournament, the resultant documentary makes for refreshing viewing.

"When patriotic prejudices overshadow my God, I feel inwardly starved." So said Rabindranath Tagore, and so, with Inman's eschewing of an obvious co-opting of the glib nationalist rhetoric of football punditry that might have 'better sold' the film, one can only warm to a film-maker who was sensitive enough to shun football's dark heart to concentrate on the creative job at hand.

"This is the most interesting thing I've ever tagged along to," he tells me at the offices of BOSH, the award-winning in-house production arm of ad agency, Mother London. "My co-director was Ben Holman who is married to a Brazilian and he knows Rio de Janeiro like the back of his hand."

Between them, Inman and Holman set about placing Gilles Peterson and his enduring quest for new Brazilian music at the centre of the narrative, with the veteran musicologist, for the first time, producing an album of music for which his passion is unrivalled. 

The original idea was to film for a week and see what could be achieved. "I made myself available to Gilles and told him that I could capture on film what he was trying to do. He wasn't 100% sure to begin with because it was an exploratory trip for him. He had no idea at that point what he was going to do.

"Gilles, who's a very humble guy, has a habit of wandering off half way through a scene if he sees something interesting, so we were kept on our toes. We came back with some great footage which persuaded Universal to give us a budget to make the full-length film. 

"Then we went back to Rio, to the studio and the streets. We didn't get everything we planned for, but we did sneak around and shot from the sidelines. After a few days, we learned how not to get in the way of the recording sessions. We were in pursuit of Gilles who himself was putting together the album on the hoof." 

On returning to the UK, Inman and Holman lengthened the film to 75 minutes for a cinema release.

Having made his bones in TV with Talkback productions when "things were thrust upon you and you learned how to make a film the hard way", Inman learned on the job, an experience which stood him in good stead for the fast-paced world of Gilles Peterson productions.

As a self-avowed admirer of the output of Vice Films, Inman lent Bam Bam Bam a punchiness that has elevated it above the stock music doc that it could so easily have been if left in the hands of a director dissociated from the music of Brazil. 

"I'm a storyteller," he says, "and when I was writing the script I was mindful of us being a bunch of gringos who don't have to live in the favelas. I've always been acutely aware of my place in the world. I'm a white, middle class male, so who the hell am I?" 

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It was, however, Inman's chance to honour the city of Rio, its people and its art; stylistically, the film possesses a visual motif of a patchwork, rather like the grid of a record shelf, which broke out the locales and favelas into different screens. 

The film was not an opportunity to make political statements but was, instead, a film about music; its history and its potency. "The good thing about Rio is that no one cared that we were filming, so we improvised." Like all the best jazz. 

With Gilles Peterson (pictured above) planning another Brazilian record, there'll no doubt be a further accompanying film, but right now this is Inman's novitiate when, as he parses the film that has become his calling card and travels with it to cinemas around the country with Gilles Peterson by his side, he seizes chances to talk about how he has stepped outside the confines of the advertising world to work on a project close to his heart. Carpe diem, as they say.

Bam Bam Bam: The Story of Sonzeira will be screened at: Edinburgh Picture House; Liverpool Picture House; Brighton Picture House & Nottingham Broadway Cinema 

Photographs courtesy of Amy Frenchum/Brownswood Recordings