Italo disco is often seen as the lesser cousin of US and UK pop, a cultural hierarchy built on a set of shared assumptions relating to nationhood, language, identity and originality. In Distant Planet: The Six Chapters of Simona, Josh Blaaberg combines fiction, archive and interview to explore how emotional impulses are at the core of these and all assumptions: how reality and desire are inherently intertwined. The film imagines a universe where mid ’80s New York runs riot for the latest italo releases and Campari fountains are installed by Presidential decree. It presents the genre in all its glamour and artifice, celebrating its anonymous stars who sang in borrowed English under invented American names.
Starting from the premise that life is as ephemeral as a short-lived italo hit, the film positions the genre as being defined by loss: of language, voice and dashed hopes for a better future. It goes on to explore how the eternal desire to overcome loss is the true meaning of luxury. The film draws parallels between the loss of loved ones, the strange unreality of experiencing grief in childhood, and the unique combination of happy and sad sounds that define the music.
Through archive footage, interviews and newly-imagined unrealities, Distant Planet takes three italo disco stars and journeys with them as they reconnect with the forgotten fantasies of the music. In doing so, our italo stars are elevated to their rightful places in pop history. Immortalised as demi-gods on the slopes of Mount Etna, all loss is defeated and cultural hierarchies overcome.
2018, dir. Josh Blaaberg
Produced by Frieze in association with Gucci
Credit: Senior Researcher, additional copywriting