Actor Jimi Mistry has worked with Gurinder Chadha, Roland Emmerich, Edward Zwick and Guy Ritchie, rejecting the Hollywood lifestyle to remain based in the UK. First appearing on British TV as Doctor Fonseca in EastEnders, he caught the critics’ attention by simultaneously starring in the hugely popular Damien O’Donnell feature East is East(1999). Whereas he had appeared in the soap as a straight-laced (albeit gay) and usually sombre character, his cinema debut revealed an actor perfectly at home in edgy comedy. “You can both fuck off if you think I’m getting married to a fucking Paki,” his character memorably tells his strict Pakistani Muslim father.
It was with The Guru (Daisy von Scherler Mayer, 2002), in which he played the lead, that the Hollywood lifestyle came knocking, and Mistry realised it was decision time. But this Scarborough-born lad is happy to dip in and out when opportunities arise, and for now he is firmly rooted in London. With a very knowing eye on the Med . . .
Now he has teamed up with director Steve Jaggi and filmed a love song to Ibiza called And The Beat Goes On. Well-received at both the Ibiza International Music Summit and the Ibiza Film Festival last month, the film nails the two different sides to the island’s international summer scene, with a genuine and heartfelt appreciation of both. During the three year process of putting the film together Mistry has become bewitched by the island, and it shows.
“I don’t think I’ve come across anything in my life that has affected me so quickly!” We’re sitting on Talamanca beach, it’s summer season opening weekend and the island is unfolding in colours all around us. When he first arrived to start the film three years earlier, he’d been intent on making a film about the British acid house revolution, which started here. “My mum often says as soon as I learned to walk I was dancing to music. Music was definitely my first love. Everyone at school knew me as Jimi the music guy. It was my way of communicating, way before acting entered my life, but my passion for it is the same today.”
The film started out as a history of acid house, and was to use Ibiza as a backdrop to that history. After all, it was here that DJ Alfredo, who is credited with inspiring the whole movement, was introducing the Balearic mixes on his decks and changing the way people experienced clubbing. He ran Amnesia back when it was an open-air farmhouse. Once Mistry and Jaggi got here, though, they found the story was deeper, and that Alfredo himself was taking inspiration from an island which was providing the less definable tools. The signposts changed, and now the filmmakers found they were changing course, and that the real protagonist of the documentary was the island itself.
“It had never clicked with me how true that was. The realisation started after doing the first few interviews. I was driven to make a film about the island. All I knew is that I had to do it. I just went out shooting and interviewing and listening. Yeah, I was going to make a documentary about twenty years of acid house . . . but it very naturally turned into something else.”
Mistry’s love affair with the island is obvious in his voiceovers. He picked some great locations too. Apart from the obvious Es Vedra and southern beaches he devotes a section of the film to life on Benirras. As someone who has spent at least one summer and a couple of Christmases practically living on that beach, I was relieved to learn that he’d instantly picked up on the bigger picture, with his appreciation of the year-round local community who live in the present but are fuelled by history (from pagan to hippie) and for whom the concept of elitism is anathema. This thread is very intelligently perceived and pursued throughout the film.
Mistry’s cast of characters is as inclusive as it can be given the limitations of making a ninety-minute film. Popular summer club figures like parisien David Guetta (of top Pacha night Fuck Me I’m Famous), Frankfurt’s Sven Vath (of Cocoon fame) and NYC’s DJ and producer Danny Tenaglia are all featured.
The filmmakers were lucky enough to connect from the beginning with Steve Dobson, one of the island’s fixers. “Steve was recommended to me. He literally made it happen. I really didn’t know what this film was going to end up being. I had no script. It was just shooting interviews, and listening, and I knew that if I collected all the material I could then just write it and tell it, and that’s exactly what happened. I have so much extra footage that can be used for DVD extras and so on. There was just so much.”
The spark that ignited Mistry’s interest in making the film at all, Ibiza as the birthplace of acid house, comes together when he manages to get the four legendary British DJs Nicky Holloway, Johnny Walker, Paul Oakenfold and Danny Rampling to Pike’s Hotel for a well overdue reunion.
“I met the legendary Tony Pike, and he said bring it here, no problem. He cleared the Club Tropicana pool bar and I sat and did the interview like it was a TV show, with hotel guests the other side of the pool watching. It was a perfect setting. Of course they were like a bunch of schoolkids: Nicky and Paul put eyeliner on and you could really see their personalities coming through, which is exactly what I wanted. The interview was three hours long and we emptied three bottles of champagne.”
And of course . . . Alfredo.
“Alfredo was the inspiration, he’s at the top, but he’s also the root of the tree. He was just very, very important for this film. He inspired Danny to go back and start Shoom. They were all inspired not just by his choice of music, but by the personality he was giving out via that music. I told him I wanted to celebrate him because he’s a very important part of this island culture to me and I wanted to celebrate the island.”
Alfredo has described those early days at Amnesia as “freer than other places, and cheaper. Background or social class didn’t matter. I was the only DJ. We opened at 3am and went on until midday, so people would come down after the other clubs shut. It had a very special atmosphere . . . It was the time of the Berlin Wall, glasnost, and there was a feeling of unity among Europeans that influenced the music.”
And The Beat Goes On also makes use of early footage taken from A Short Film About Chilling, Angus Cameron’s 1990 documentary about the early acid house club days featuring The Farm, A Man Called Adam, and Brasilio, the man behind so many legendary Ibiza nights. In a way Mistry and Jaggi’s film picks up where Cameron’s left off, 20 years on . . . because so little has changed in terms of the island’s personality.
Beyond the clubs the filmmakers found they were being guided to discover what it is that makes the island so special, and why exactly it is that the party scene here has become a global legend. The real inspiration was, of course, behind the scenes. After all, 1987 may have been the acid house summer of love, but it is well-documented that Ibiza has been used as a party island since Carthaginian days. People can argue that it’s the weather. Tell that to Mallorca. Argue it is the size. (I’ve had the feeling occasionally in summer that I’m actually on a huge boat, not an island at all. Terra not quite firma). Tell that to Formentera.
No, there is more going on. And The Beat Goes On is as good an attempt as any I’ve seen to get to the bottom of it.
A well-known face around the island, Larah Davis of Ibiza Retreats is interviewed in the film talking about the island’s magnetism and its healing charms. And it was through Larah that Mistry was introduced to another of the island’s well-loved characters, Akoo. “Larah called me and said ‘You’ve got to meet Akoo. You have to have him in your film. He’s having a full moon party and you should be there. I’ll arrange for you to meet him.’ So I did . . . We met in Santa Gertrudis and he read my eyes to see what my spirit was about. I went up to his house which is just amazing, on full moon, and it just blew me away. He has a music temple just for his instruments up there on his mountain. Drums, synths, maracas, and anything else you can shake. He just said bring food and drink, share, and just take part in this musical journey. We had a jam session that lasted five hours. All the hippies came up for the full moon. You just go in, pick up an instrument and join in. It was incredible. I’ve never been to anything like that. A lot people asked me after the screening how on earth I found this amazing guy.
“One of the genuinely touching and emotional things that happened during the making of this film was meeting Akoo. The fact that he wanted to bring me to his place, inviting me into his world. That was a unique night. It actually reminded me about how Ibiza embraces you or spits you out, which everyone says, and I’ve seen is true. If you’re willing to just let go, you’ll be ok. I remember going to Amnesia when I first came here, and I’m a really outgoing person but for some reason I was finding it so hard to just let go, and it took a while for me to be able to do so, to lose the self-consciousness. Anyway, I had a moment just like that at Akoo’s, and I remembered that earlier experience at Amnesia. It was the same thing. But the drums are a great catalyst. They unlock any insecurity that you have about that stuff. So I really thank Akoo for letting me into his world, and yesterday at the screening he thanked me for letting him into my world.”
Other local music makers featured in the film include residents Danish-born Lenny Ibizarre, the producer of Ibizarre Records, and American singer Angelique Bianca. “And with Lenny I felt he was my sense, the brain of the film in a way, he’s a very bright and well-spoken guy, very talented. We couldn’t do a film about Ibiza without having Lenny in it and what he brings to the story is really amazing. I’m so pleased he’s in it. I really enjoyed the scenes with Angelique. We had a really strong connection which is why we used one of her songs on the soundtrack. You see a lot of good energy flying around in the scenes she’s in, she’s always smiling.”
So after all of this, is there a “typical Ibiza person” emerging in Mistry’s head, I wondered. Just as I was about to ask him, my cameraman Kev decided to go for a recce on the beach to find a quieter spot for us to do a short video interview, and Ozzy Osbourne’s son Louis appeared. It looked like he and Jimi were old friends, though as it turned out they had met on this same beach just the day before. I was wondering if any of the Osbournes might be typical Ibiza people when as if on cue another local woman Ruth Osborn (no relation) appeared! Ruth runs a swimming school here on the island. She lives close to the beach and was out for a post-party recovery run.
“I think people who are naturally very open fit in here. That’s my feeling now. People who are open-minded, who welcome things as they happen, and the people who don’t, the vampires who just suck what they can from you, they’re much more visible here. You can’t hide your true nature here.” In a nutshell, Jimi.
The opening weekend of the summer season also ran into both the Ibiza International Music Summit and the Ibiza International Film Festival. And The Beat Goes On screened at both. The reception was good. “Which was music to my ears. I could so easily misrepresent Ibiza, as so many others have done before me. When I first came here for the Film Festival when they screened my film Partition (Vic Sarin, 2007), I was sitting in the Hotel Hacienda with my producer and it struck me how beautiful the landscape was. I said ‘you know, this place is absolutely nothing like I’d always imagined it would be.’ I was probably a victim of disinformation in the British media, especially as I was very much involved in DJing parties during the 90s rave era, and reading the awful media that surrounded that scene.”
Mistry’s own background started with a huge passion for music, and he was DJing before his acting career took off, after drama school, so his involvement with the film’s music mixes was paramount. “I worked very hard on the soundtrack to the film so it was important to me to see how that went down at the International Music Summit this week. It was a great moment for me to see people cheering and that a couple of people started dancing at one point.”
Meanwhile, Mistry has just finished filming for It’s a Wonderful Afterlife, a comedy/horror from Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha. “Just finished it last week at Ealing Studios. It’s a really good, funny film, a supernatural curry comedy, sort of Bend It like Beckham meets Shaun of the Dead,with Zoe Wanamaker and Sally Hawkins. And I’m doing Roland Emmerich’s 2012, which is opening in 30 countries at the end of the year. West Is West(the sequel to East is East) has just been announced at Cannes, and I’ll be doing that too. I’m reprising the character that made my career ten years after I did it.”
He says he had a lot of fun on Guy Ritchie’s Rock ‘n Rolla. “We had a good laugh, it was great. I got a call from Guy who wanted to meet me, so I went to his production office in London, which is at the top of his house. He’s a very intelligent man, really bright. I remember sitting down with him and we just started talking generally, philosophising, exchanging views on the world to see if we had a connection, if we could get on. We ended up talking about The Crusades! At the end of the meeting he said ‘so do you fancy playing the councillor?’ and I told him I’d love to. It was great. He’s a very good director to work with, and it was nice working with those actors; Tom Wilkinson, Mark Strong.”
Mistry seems as much at home in Ibiza with the hippies as he would, I imagine, in Hollywood business meetings. His eclectic career is notable, but he’s maintained a very down-to-earth way about him.
“I decided not to follow the Hollywood lifestyle some time ago. It was a very conscious decision of mine. In the acting game you’re given your launch-pads, moments when the world thinks they’ve discovered something new. You have your chance to follow a very particular path if you choose to. Well I had that chance a few years ago with The Guru, my first big international leading role. I got the big agent, I had everyone telling me how wonderful I am. I went to LA where I found everyone around me talking to me as if I’d already made the decision to give it a go. Because why wouldn’t I. The majority of actors want this, after all. The extent people will go to in order to get there are incredible. Every little last bone in the body telling them this is what they want. I’ve just never had that inner feeling. I love being creative, I love acting and films, and making music but my driving passion is not to be in Hollywood and working towards Oscar ceremonies, because it’s a whole different ball game. I know why I turned it down. I just don’t love myself enough in that way. I don’t love myself enough to become as selfish as I’d need to be on that path. And that’s what I don’t like about the business as a whole. There are people I know who work within the system and aren’t like that, but on the whole . . . I need to have some sort of integrity, so that’s the choice I made. I know if I were in LA now, I might have the big house, the big lifestyle and an LA career to match because that’s what it was set up to be at the time, but I didn’t believe I’d be happy.
“Of course I sometimes look back and say what if? But no. I don’t want my daughter growing up in that atmosphere. I feel like I’ve got more to offer, so I’m doing it my way. And I’ve done it the hard way. I love being in London, and I’ve been lucky enough to be in films like Blood Diamond anyway, but I’m just doing my work and I’m much happier this way.”
As for the rest of his stay? “My work is done. I’m off to the Space opening party tomorrow to seriously unwind. I really can’t miss that!”
Jimi Mistry talks to Helen Donlon http://www.ibizaa-z.com/ibizablog.php?name=1421
Film Promo http://www.hicksjaggi.com/atbgo.mov
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A gala screening of And The Beat Goes On was shown as part of the Notting Hill Film Festival on 11 July 2009, 7pm, Odeon Kensington Cinema, London, UK.
And The Beat Goes On
Director Steve Jaggi
Writers Ivana Fiori, Jimi Mistry, Steve Jaggi
Producer Lionel Hicks
Cinematographer Maja Zamojda
Editor Melanie Gäbel
Jimi Mistry talks to Helen Donlon 2009 http://www.ibizaa-z.com/ibizablog.php?name=1421
All photos of Jimi Mistry courtesy of Jimi Mistry