Film Review: ‘No Cameras Allowed’

Sneaking into music festivals is a dick move. Artists and patrons pay to attend while vendors, staff and volunteers go to great lengths to make the festival run with as few preventable glitches as possible. And a (very) few try to attend without contributing either through money, performing or factoring into the machine that runs a music festival. No one wants to be glorified for sneaking into a festival, but James Marcus Haney thrusts himself into the spotlight in his documentary No Cameras Allowed.

No Cameras AllowedHaney claims his film is “a love letter to these festivals, in a way. And it shows them in such a great light that my goal is that people will see my film and then go and experience live music on their own.” And while there might be some who are inspired to go to these festivals as a result, how many will follow his lead and sneak in, use old/fake wristbands and not support the artists by buying a ticket? It’s the hardest aspect of the film to get around – is Haney doing damage to future festivarians or is he just pointing out flaws that need to be patched?

Along the way he gets to see some incredible music – some of it onstage and in the huddle before the headlining set (with Mumford and Sons) – and later goes on tour at an age that makes you envious of his youth and jealous of his opportunities. Sure I went to festivals at his age but damn he makes it thrilling and with the added degree of difficulty of greater surveillance, with which he gets away with it, usually.

The film is a double-edged sword with breaking into festivals, and while it is not Almost Famous for 21st century, you do get some nods to the Cameron Crowe film. With a good soundtrack – Jay-Z, Young the Giant, Mumford – No Cameras Allowed follows a journey of a 20-something through the world of music festivals. Haney doesn’t set an example that anyone should follow, but it is interesting that only large festivals were the appeal. Sure, they have the big name, but smaller festivals not being shown is both a good thing and a snub. The best festivals aren’t always the largest names, and that is proved year in, year out. Yet showing how to sneak into festivals that live year to year on ticket sales and not extensive corporate sponsorships would have been a slap in the face. Overall Haney snuck into 50 festivals but we only see the large ones. It would be interesting to see what was left on the cutting room floor/recycle bin and what didn’t make the cut.

We get to see Haney make his way into 4 large festivals – Coachella, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury and Austin City Limits, documenting them along the way and getting his photos into Rolling Stone while blowing off his graduation from USC to follow Mumford and Sons on the Railroad Revival Tour. The thrill is palpable and you may end up rooting for Haney, or maybe just surprised he got through security so easily, so many times and caught just as well. The relationships back at home are tested between friend and girlfriend.

Is Haney a dick? Is he a millennial getting what he thinks he is owed? Is it just for the thrill or is it to show off on camera? Watch for yourself and decide.

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