Vinyl Nation – Film Review

There are times where you sit down to watch a film and really feel like it has been made just for you. That was certainly the feeling I got as I watched brand new documentary Vinyl Nation. Given that I grew up with a music-obsessed father with a huge vinyl collection, have spent a huge chunk of my life working in music stores, and now find myself with my own vinyl collection while working for one of Australia’s best known boutique vinyl labels, there was always going to be a good chance that I was going to like Vinyl Nation as a documentary. What I didn’t expect was for it to affect me emotionally, to the point where I cried.

It is very clear that Vinyl Nation is a documentary made by vinyl lovers for vinyl lovers. That becomes very obvious when you realise that filmmakers Christopher Boone and Kevin Smokler not only know the vinyl world inside and out, but also know the right people to talk to so that the audience receive an informative education about vinyl; both in the past and the present.

What I found so intriguing about Vinyl Nation is the topics explored throughout the film. How did vinyl begin? What killed it? How did the resurgence begin? Who collects it? How is it made these days? These topics are all explored in great detail, and while the documentary is information and educational, it never strays from being entertaining as well.

The two most interesting topics I found in Vinyl Nation explored the queries of, ‘How do people these days try to overcome the stigma of what it means to be a vinyl collector?’ and ‘How to run a vinyl store?’. Especially interesting was the segment exploring how there are just as many female vinyl collectors as men, although references to vinyl collecting in pop culture relating to film and television would suggest the complete opposite.

Boone and Smokler certainly know how to put together a documentary using interesting subject matter when it comes to interviews. From vinyl collectors young and old, through to vinyl store owners and artists who demand that their work be released on vinyl, the filmmakers leave no stone unturned as they dig deep to find out absolutely everything there is to know about vinyl collecting. The interviews recorded at Vinyl Music Store Day and the various collector fairs are especially insightful.

I guess a lot of readers will wonder what made me cry while watching Vinyl Nation. Well to be honest, it was the same question that reduced a lot of the interviewees to tears as well, ‘What would you like to have happen to your collection when you die?’. As I listened to the various answers given on-screen, I soon realised that this is a question I have never really thought about either.

There is a strange power with Vinyl Nation as a documentary. It captures a passion that so many people around the world have and share. The film not only explains the passion that these people have, but it also thoroughly shows that a lot of the stigmas around vinyl collecting are completely false.

I can’t recommend Vinyl Nation enough. This is a fascinating watch for both collector and non-collector alike, although I feel if you are not a vinyl collector before you watch this film, you may well be not long after.

Vinyl Nation is part of the 2021 Melbourne Documentary Film Festival until July 31st.
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