Whatever happened to Generation X?

We premiere Dan Emmerson’s hazy new film that travels to Blackpool to explore the human need to dance and connect

It doesn’t make much sense to describe empathy on the dancefloor as a battle. But that’s exactly what one of the shirtless raving blokes in Dan Emmerson’s new film does: calling it a “friendly battle” fought with “paper planes and things”. Not exactly shirts v skins, it still doesn’t make much sense... but in the context of the film, it works. It’s one of the many poignant statements you’ll find in this short that could only have come from a cast cruising on loads of E.

The film itself focuses on a group of Generation X ravers at an old skool dance and trance festival in Blackpool. The colourful backdrop of carousels and ferris wheels in their kitsch and sentimental way somehow emphasise the film’s message: that the ultimate sense of collectivity experienced by dancers isn’t bound by age, creed or colour. Through the lens of this subculture, Emmerson comments on the “frantic Instagram world we are so consumed by”.

“Everyone knows everything about everything now and are too internet savvy to talk openly and honestly about stuff,” he says. So, for Emmerson, the dancers refreshingly, “spoke with an innocence that I feel like a younger generation lacks”. Maybe we could learn a thing or two from these ravers looking for something far simpler: “That perfect high when you’re with a great set of people and you’re just enjoying yourself.” One dancer puts it naively: “I love it, it makes me smile, I like seeing people happy, it’s like a rush innit.”

“This film is about the similarity between us all. We all need to party and have fun” – Dan Emmerson

If Emmerson’s ‘Gannin’ Hyem’ explored the growing intergenerational rift between the ageing Whippet racing clubs in Newcastle and Supreme fetishising hypebeasts, Paper Planes is a wholly more inclusive affair. The London-based filmmaker reveals, “This film is about the similarity between us all. We all need to party and have fun. Dancing is the most tribal instinct we have as humans expressing ourselves to sound.”

For Emmerson, the murky soundscape - like light passing tenderly through stained glass - is “as important as the picture.” Made by slowing down an iconic rave track by 400%, it aims to “try and create a world that was familiar to those that have experienced that transcendental E sensation,” as words decay, passing in and out of focus.

“I’d hope that you feel like you’ve come back down to earth, almost with a comedown, after watching this. But with a smile on your face!” Dan Emmerson would like to thank everyone who made this film possible. Particularly Ed Hubert, Ben Crook and Tim Smith.

Thanks to Michael Lewin and NOWNESS for commissioning the film.