Bernard MacMahon’s “Becoming Led Zeppelin,” which was recently completed, will screen out of competition at the Italian fest, which runs from Sept. 1-11. The film was co-written and produced by Allison McGourty, and features band members Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Robert Plant as themselves, as well as the late John Bonham (who died in 1980).
The project, which was first announced in 2019, has unprecedented access to the band, marking the first and only time the group has participated in a documentary in 50 years. Though 1976 doc “The Song Remains the Same” centred on the band, that was largely a concert film of a series of Madison Square Garden performances in 1973.
The doc — which is being shopped globally by Altitude Film Sales and Submarine — traces the individual journeys of the four band members as they move through the music scene of the 1960s, playing small British clubs and performing some of the biggest hits of the era, until their paths cross in the summer of 1968 for a rehearsal that changes their lives forever. Together they set out to conquer America on a rollercoaster ride that culminates in 1970 when they become the number one band in the world.
The group is best known for hits including “Stairway to Heaven,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “Good Times Bad Times” and “The Immigrant Song,” and are considered one of the most influential rock bands in history.
“With ‘Becoming Led Zeppelin’ my goal was to make a documentary that looks and feels like a musical,” said MacMahon of the film. “I wanted to weave together the four diverse stories of the band members before and after they formed their group with large sections of their story advanced using only music and imagery and to contextualize the music with the locations where it was created and the world events that inspired it. I used only original prints and negatives, with over 70,000 frames of footage manually restored, and devised fantasia sequences, inspired by ‘Singin’ In The Rain,’ layering unseen performance footage with montages of posters, tickets and travel to create a visual sense of the freneticism of their early career.”
MacMahon’s credits include the documentary series and feature film “American Epic,” which is an exploration of roots music in North America as well as the genre’s impact across the world.
The Venice Film Festival unveiled a strong lineup last week. “Becoming Led Zeppelin” will join an Out of Competition program that also includes Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel,” Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho” and Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune.” Films in competition include Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog,” Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Hand of God,” Pablo Larrain’s “Spencer.”