Roger Waters attempts to break down walls in new film 'Us + Them'
The film features a mix of mid-era Pink Floyd and some of Waters recent solo music
Cinema has always been a huge part of the work of Pink Floyd and its co-founder, Roger Waters. In their time, the bestselling British rock band scored a number of films, including Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, played at the famous Roman amphitheatre for 1972 concert movie Live at Pompeii and, most famously, collaborated with Alan Parker for a surreal take on the Waters-written album, The Wall.
So it’s no surprise that the English-born musician set out to document his latest spectacular show, Us + Them, for the big screen. Directed by Sean Evans, the former Floyd frontman simply wanted to capture the hugely ambitious 156-date tour on film. “[I thought]: ‘We must make a record of it,’” he says. “It seemed like a sensible thing to do.” In early October, the film will be released in cinemas across the globe for an exclusive two-night engagement, before hitting DVD.
While the concert features an electric mix of mid-era Floyd, from The Dark Side of the Moon and Animals to Wish You Were Here and The Wall, Waters also performs tracks from his most recent solo effort – 2017’s Is This The Life We Really Want? With the theme being a man and his granddaughter examining why children are being killed in other parts of the world, songs such as The Last Refugee and The Most Beautiful Girl find Waters, now 76, still burning with anger.
“The Most Beautiful Girl is about targeted assassinations and specifically about a girl who does appear in the show,” Waters explains. “She’s on the screen at the beginning of the first lyric of Us + Them. She’s an incredibly beautiful Yemeni girl, and I believe her to be dead.” The girl in question is seen in a still image taken from Dirty Wars, the documentary written and narrated by journalist Jeremy Scahill, who travelled to Afghanistan and other countries under fire during the United States-driven War on Terror.
Over the last 12 years or so, I’ve been trying to rally the troops to the cause of the human rights of the Palestinian people.
All through Us + Them, projected on giant video screens behind the stage, footage provides context for the songs. Scenes shot by Evans on a beach in Suffolk, England, with actors from Syria, Palestine and North Africa, represent the refugee crisis. Another sequence sees Waters take inspiration from Sonia Kennebeck’s National Bird, a documentary about the US drone assassination programme. And, inevitably, images of President Donald Trump feature, notably alongside the performance of Pigs (Three Different Ones) from the album Animals.
Unsurprisingly, Waters takes a dim view of Trump and, in particular, the border wall he has erected between America and Mexico. “Obviously it’s a terrible idea and a total waste of everybody’s time, energy and money,” he says. “It diverts all our attention from the things we need to be thinking about, which is how to tear walls down and how to co-operate with one another. It’s hugely retrograde and the act of an omnicidal buffoon, which is what Trump is.”
Waters’s political ire doesn’t just focus on Trump; he also gets angry when he refers to the Israel-Palestine conflict. “Over the last 12 years or so, I’ve been trying to rally the troops to the cause of the human rights of the Palestinian people,” he says. “They’ve tried to destroy me, the Israeli lobby, Aipac. They won’t even countenance the idea that the way the Israeli government has treated the indigenous people of Palestine since 1947 … that there’s anything wrong with it.”
Waters believes his message is reaching younger people. While the music for Us + Them was shot in Amsterdam, footage of the youthful audience members was taken from all round the world. At one point, the camera captures a single tear rolling down the cheek of one girl, listening to solo track, Deja Vu. Waters admits he was surprised that these fans know all the tracks from the new album; there are even some “who don’t know any of the Pink Floyd work”.
While this may be difficult to believe, there’s no question that Waters is still attracting massive sell-out crowds to his gigs. Already, he’s planning a North American tour next year, with a possible free concert in Mexico. “I’m still writing songs that mean something,” he says. “I see a lot of my contemporaries, getting older and older with their audience. I get older and older, but the audience doesn’t.”
Us + Them will be in cinemas worldwide on October 2 and October 6 only
Published: September 25, 2019 09:00 AM