By Mr. Will Wong
What better stage for 299 QUEEN STREET WEST to debut than at a Festival like SXSW, where Music, Film, Television and Comedy intersect? This third Documentary from Toronto Filmmaker Sean Menard (The Carter Effect) explores the great cultural impact of MuchMusic in its iconic Queen Street headquarters. For any Canadian whom like myself grew-up throughout the ’80s and ’90s, the groundbreaking Music Television Station forever will be embedded into our generation’s identity. In fact, it is difficult to talk about this Film without feeling emotional and proud that we were there to witness the era.
MUCHMUSIC launched in 1984, driven by a focus on Music and Artist. Many an icon has walked through their halls, interviewed by Video Jockeys – some who came in with very little experience – but somehow were people we saw a bit of ourselves in, entertaining us from days on-end as kids on weekends and summer vacations. We were one of those kids who would wait glued by the TV set for a Madonna video to be played. We hate-watched Electric Circus, a one of a kind Dance Music program that gave a voice to Toronto nightclub culture. We would queue the studio’s Queen Street entrance during the MuchMusic Video Awards (MMVAs) for a glimpse of Avril Lavigne and Destiny’s Child, hoping for an autograph.
The bright light that was MuchMusic would dim throughout the 2010s as we entered the era of YouTube for Music Video consumption and Bell Media‘s acquisition of the network would lead to a change in format geared towards non-scripted Television. It’s 2023 and it’s been five years since we’ve seen the MMVAs, an annual event that took over the City ever Father’s Day, making us feel awful for abandoning our fathers every year, leaving us incredibly sunburnt. We really had it great in Toronto.
Menard lets the voices of MuchMusic tell its story through archives and voiceovers. Denise Donlon, David Kines, Sook-Yin Lee, Namugenyi Kiwanuka, George Stroumbolopoulos, Bill Welychka, Monika Deol, Steve Anthony, Michael Williams, Tony “Master T” Young and of course our all-time favourite, Erica Ehm (she even serves in a Consultant capacity for the Documentary) all are participants. So many fascinating stories how MuchMusic had evolved from very little structure to becoming a mandatory stop for the world’s top musical acts in amplifying the message about their new music. MuchMusic was always about the relationship between Artists and their fans and its legacy lives on to this day.
One, there is the nostalgia factor about 299 QUEEN STREET WEST that captures that same magic spell MuchMusic had over us in its heyday. But it truly is the compelling behind-the-scenes stories the network’s talent of what it was like interviewing the world’s biggest stars and ultimately for some what it felt like to fall out of love with their jobs that make this a must-watch. A phenomenal Documentary. Hoping this gets the TIFF treatment this Fall as it deserves it.
299 QUEEN STREET WEST screens at SXSW ’23 as follows:
Mar 13, 2023
Mar 17, 2023
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