Maxine Trump / USA / 2012 / 80 mins
It’s common for musicians to declare that they eat, sleep and breathe music but in order to exhale tuneful melodies, oxygen is crucial. Maxine Trump’s coppice orientated documentary exhibits the resplendent Tongass National Forest and, while undeniably captivating, it is hard to ignore that the issues shown extend beyond our need for acoustic guitars.
Musicwood is essentially a modernised Western (Cowboys vs. Indians) with an environmental twist. We follow renowned guitar makers Bob Taylor, Chris Martin and Dave Berryman as they unite together in their fight to save the precious element that forms their instruments. Travelling into the depths of the World’s largest rainforest, we accompany (and apparently support) them in their fight against a Native American logging company. Trump provides impressive cinematography of the breathtaking Sitka Spruce trees that inhabit the forest and factors in instrumental virtuosos such as The Antlers to convey the theme of musical importance. However, despite the harmonious novelties, there are more important issues on display.
Established over a century ago, the magnificent Alaskan forest introduced in this film is one of a kind. With devastating images of dead trees contrasted against strong, green stretches of the living, the damage deforestation has had on the beauty of this area is evident. Yet, picturesque landscape aside, the environmental effects are more worrying. Without trees, the human race would not be able to live on this planet. Producing oxygen, cleaning the air and fertilising soil, we need these plants for survival, not for musical instruments.
Teaming up with Greenpeace, the trio of guitar makers attempt to befriend and recruit the Native Americans inhabiting the forest through music; but will these Indians listen to the Cowboys? After having their country invaded and dominated by foreigners several centuries ago, it is unlikely they will react well to the “white man” trying to govern their forests too. Infamous humanitarian musician Pablo Casals once said: ‘Music will save the World.’ Perhaps these environmentalists are taking the saying too literally.