Film Review: “No Cameras Allowed”

By Gwen Reid

On a very, very cold winter’s afternoon at the TIFF (Toronto’s International Film Festival) Next Wave festival, I attended a screening of No Cameras Allowed, from director and subject of the documentary James Marcus Haney. After the movie, Haney skyped with the audience for a Q&A where he gave insight into the making of the film, and the ethics behind how he made his way through the world of music photography in a very unconventional way. The film follows Haney as he sneaks into festivals such as Coachella and Bonaroo, under the guise of a photographer there to take pictures and films of the performers in the media pit in front of the stage. In the documentary, Haney and his friends drop acid and hop fences, employing an array of tactics to get into the music festivals of their dreams without the expense of a ticket.

Poster for No Cameras Allowed

Poster for No Cameras Allowed

From the short time that Haney answered audience questions, it was clear that his life is one big eventful and atypical trip to becoming a filmmaker and photographer. Sneaking into festivals and making it into the photo pit with just confidence and cameras around his neck, he got access to where most live photographers work their whole careers to get. Haney comments on the issue, saying, “this film comes out which showed me kind of sidestepping all of those long processes, a lot of people were not stoked on it.” However, by taking an unconventional route to live photography, Haney claims, “no, I didn’t steal your shots… I wasn’t taking their spot because I wasn’t taking one of their press passes.” At the end of the day it’s the photograph that you take, which Haney explains using the photo of Jay-Z that Bonaroo used, “I wasn’t in the photo pit I actually waited all day at the front of the stage, in the crowd… if you really want it you’ll go and get it”. Is this the new way to get into live photography? Or has Marcus Haney made a path for himself that can’t be followed by others?

Ever apparent in both the film and the discussion afterwards were a love of music and the cinematic portrayal of it that Marcus had achieved during his shenanigans. Marcus uses his own life as the tale through which to show his musical and photographic experiences, which on their own would not stand up as a feature film: “I never wanted to be a part of this film, I wanted to make a movie that showed the music and the artists from the perspective of sneaking in, but never the personal story”. Using romance and young rebellion to fuel a story around the adventures, the film becomes more than just sneaking in to festivals and showing the footage that was taken.

Now, Marcus Haney is living the dream, following musicians and covering festivals all around the world where he continues to take pictures and capture footage— that first trip to Coachella led to a bizarre path. The film showed originality and perseverance which resulted in things most people only dream of. Is it ethical that processes were skipped and years of work avoided? Go watch this movie and decide for yourself.

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