The litany of retro computer movie, book and podcast releases over the recent few years, would indicate we are in the golden age of retro computing documentaries. Fueled by nostalgia and a quest to capture untold aspects of the subjects history, each release searches for a niche to set itself apart. Some rely on the ethos of interview subjects, building upon first hand industry experiences to situate their work as a historical record of events. Viva Amiga, directed by Zach Weddington, approaches the documentary from a perspective not frequently seen in the genre of retro computing. Zack expertly threads and weaves narrative into the historical dialogue delivered by interviewees such as R.J. Mical. R.J’s contagious enthusiasm is a lively and passionate recount of his memories at Commodore. The addition adds an almost mythic allure to the Commodore history.
Viva Amiga recounts much of the industry lore like Jack Tramiel’s attempt to purchase the Amiga company, but ultimately being out maneuvered by Commodore. The sale of Amiga to Commodore and other examples of the Amiga’s history, might be considered common knowledge to the machines fervent followers – what makes this and other similar stories unique is the context in which they are used. The film does not follow a blow by blow monologue of accounts, it instead takes an easily consumable, broad paint brush across the machines history. 3D rendering with composed cutscenes of pearly white Amiga computers augment the interviews, shifting the viewers attention at expertly timed intervals.
So how does Viva position itself in the retro computing discussion? The evoking sound track, visuals and narrative approach, capture the attention of viewers not intimately connected to the Amiga or its community. I rewatched Viva with my 8 year old, and for full disclosure, she is aware of my bias to the machine. In one scene we did get a bit emotional when a group of machines were discarded and neglected in front of an abandoned building. What this recount emphasizes, is the powerful use of storytelling to deliver a compelling perspective of the computers history.
For the ardent followers of the 80’s computer, the film taps into nostalgic emotions to create a connection to the Amiga community who revere both the machine and its developers. In the films introduction, Dave Haynie imparts, with a degree of enthusiasm, people kept believing and people still keep believing (Viva Amiga, ~0:00:40). The timing of Dave Haynie’s statement at the opening of the film, would imply the directors intent to create an aside and parallel conversation that persists throughout the film, of the long and continued life of the Amiga. Recordings of iconic demo footage and the afore mentioned scene of Amiga computer’s in dire circumstance, further illustrate the directors use of narrative to appeal to an often demanding audience.
Producing a film about a computer system that reached its zenith in the early 90’s is a bold, commendable task. I believe Zack and his team approached this challenge with tenacious detail, not compromising quality for the sake of meeting arbitrary deadlines. Viva Amiga is in equal parts an entertaining roller coaster, the perfect introduction to the unaware and an audio visual smorgasbord of nostalgia for the Amiga fan.
You can find viewing options for the movie on Viva’s website.
Image courtesy of the http://www.thegurumeditation.org.
Will Williams is writer, photographer, programmer and electronics nerd who wields a soldering iron like it’s a lightsaber. A Commodore fanboy and Amiga disciple who believes in the endurance of the Jedi order.
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