SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumper.” We’ve all heard it. Some of us have sung along to it in the comfort of cars. Others have drunkenly belted it out during karaoke. But, in case the name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s the “I get knocked down, but I get up again/You’re never gonna keep me down” song. All these years after the one-hit wonder’s release, lead vocalist/guitarist Dunstan Bruce is feeling lost, unsure of his band’s legacy. Seeing that the world is going “to hell in a handcart,” Bruce, with co-director Sophie Robinson, chronicles his and the other band members’ relevancy in the aptly titled I Get Knocked Down.
Like most musical acts, Chumbawamba has cycled through members, and former musicians include Bruce, as mentioned earlier, Lou Watts, Boff Whalley, Jude Abbott, Alice Nutter, and Danbert Nobacon. After a decade of putting on high-intensity shows and recording modestly sized albums, the band signed with the label EMI. This proved controversial among their hardcore fans, but it led to great success for the band. In the shadow of “Tubthumper,” Chumbawamba stayed together for another 15 years or so. So, what happens to the people in an anarcho-communist band once the gigs dry up?
Well, that is precisely what is being explored throughout I Get Knocked Down. Bruce and Robinson trace the band’s history and rise to one of the biggest acts on the planet (at that time). But, what keeps this from being just a fancier Behind The Music is the inclusion of a masked specter bemoaning Bruce’s failures and taunting him the entire 90-minute runtime. It’s a simple but effective, low-budget way to allow audiences to hear the subjects’ inner doubts without resorting to a potentially dull voice-over or dry talking heads.
“In the shadow of ‘Tubthumper,’ Chumbawamba stayed together for another 15 years or so.”
Don’t misconstrue that, though. The film is still very much the tale of what happened to the band, how fame affected them, and all that stuff. And, if one is a fan, all that stuff is interesting and presented quite competently. But, it is the looking back and assessing whether they had an impact on the politics and the issues they cared about that adds a greater depth beyond the facts of Chumbawamba’s formation and dissolution.
Also, helping I Get Knocked Down stand out from the typical fare is its rather cheeky sense of humor. While the masked entity helps here a bit, a lot of it stems from the interviews with the band members themselves. They have a wry smile, and a wink about their antics then and clearly love reminiscing. These comedic moments make what could be some flat piece of information more memorable and engaging.
I Get Knocked Down is lively and fun. It examines one of the odder songs to become a phenomenon with humor and surprising profundity. Plus, afterwards, you’ll have one helluva song stuck in your head.
I Get Knocked Down screened at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.
"…lively and fun."