There is always more to a place than what you can see. There are the sounds, the tastes, the smells. There is — maybe most importantly — the way a place makes you feel. In Brandon’s Li’s recent travel film, Gateway to the Ganges, he used Musicbed artist Ryan Taubert’s “We Wish It Was Never Light” to bring a feeling of darkness and foreboding to the otherwise vibrant and beautiful Indian landscape.
“I knew I wanted something dark and compelling,” Brandon told us. “…I didn’t want this celebratory, soaring score over homeless people who are unable to shield themselves from a torrential downpour.”
Where most filmmakers might have opted for an overtly Indian-sounding track — something to further establish where the film was made — Brandon chose a geographically ambiguous track that establishes what the film is about: darkness, danger, poverty — what life is actually like for the people who live in India’s holy cities of Rishikesh, Haridwar, and Devprayag. The result is compelling. It forces the viewer to watch with fresh eyes, rather than brainlessly file the film away under “Foreign.”
Brandon casually mentioned during our Skype call to Dubai that he has been a literal nomad for the past two years. Yet, having spent most of his professional life traveling around the world, Brandon is no idealist. He has no interest in making films that sugarcoat the places most of us have seen only on the backs of postcards or on the covers of National Geographic.
“I don’t want people to think everything’s okay in the world when they’re watching a travel film,” Brandon says. “It’s so easy to film what’s expected when you travel. You see pretty temples, you see smiling kids in the village, you go to the restaurants that have big, flowery Thai dishes and you think, Oh, this is a great country where everything’s fine. But the truth is, it’s a place that’s screwed up and complicated and beautiful and dark and has all these different layers to it. I wanted music and images that conveyed that.”
We believe Brandon succeeded. Every element — from the cinematography to the pacing to the music selection — works to elevate Gateway to the Ganges beyond mere travelogue and into the realm of essay: Brandon is saying something with this film. And we love that one of our favorite MusicBed artists, Ryan Taubert, could help him say it.