Film: The Great Hip-Hop Hoax
Director: Jeanie Finlay
Production: Glimmer Films
Cast: Billy Boyd Gavin Bain
Screen Dates: Wed 26 June, 20:40 Cineworld, Thu 27 June, 20:50 Cineworld, Fri 28 June, Odeon Westerhailles.
The Great Hip Hop Hoax.
For me personally, this was the most anticipated film at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival. Having come across the story a few years ago, it’s one of the few true-life tales I would love to have had the film rights to. Surprisingly, the story is still fairly unheard of but hopefully, as a documentary, The Great Hip Hop Hoax will change that, because the story of Silibil N’ Brains is utterly jaw dropping.
After meeting at Dundee University and hitting it off, quickly becoming best friends, Gavin Bain and Billy Boyd (no not the one from Lord Of The Rings) formed as a hip hop duo and headed to London to test out their talents in the hope of securing a record deal. Watching their early selves perform, you don’t need to understand or like hip hop to know they were talented. What they didn’t know, is that in the music industry, there is no such thing as Scottish hip-hop. Mocked by the panel of judges as the rapping Proclaimers. Demoralised, hurt, wounded, the pair returned to Dundee uncertain that they can never reach their dreams. Then what could be described as a bit of a brain fart, the pair thought that if they sounded like Americans from California, then they might be able to be taken more serious. That one lie opened a door previously closed on them, and discovered to reach their goals, they were going to have to pretend to be American to reach their goals, despite the fact that neither Gavin or Billy had ever even been to America.
There are so many fascinating elements to the story, like The Impostor, the sheer effort and dedication the pair went to pull off one lie and stay true to always staying in character as the two Americans they fabricated would put most actors to shame. Constantly adopting their American accents even to speak to their close friends and even girlfriends. Their story is as much a story about how fake the music industry is, where image trumps talent but also how quick one can rise and also quickly fall when the dream takes a turn for the worse.
The film is comprised of one on one interviews with Gavin and Billy and those who were close to them and the ones they conned. The other parts are filled out with some fantastic animation from Bafta winner Will Anderson, but somewhat thankfully, archived footage of the pair making vlogs for their then fans. Seeing the pair act out as these two characters cements their stories but it’s also amazing to see how contrasting they are to their true selves, more so with Boyd, who looks like a regular Joe, one would possibly never imagine the story of his past.
For all it’s fascination, it also shows the contrast of the pair and their journey post their break-up. Billy returning to his roots and becoming a family man back in Arbroath, a million miles from the potential of being in California where they looked like they were heading but yet couldn’t be happier, it’s quite inspiring. Whilst on the other hand Gavin is still chasing the dream, seemingly unable to give up, somewhat tragic compared to his former best friend’s route.
If there is any flaw in the film is the aesthetic of the interviews themselves, which look un-cinematic and over glossy, it feels slightly that it was made for TV. But it’s a minor gripe as on a whole, it’s an engrossing tale of two very likable young men who decided to play the industry and nearly won. Funny, touching, inspiring and wonderfully captivating.