Category Archives: Films

Viva Amiga – the Review

The Amiga Won't Die

ANDY WARHOL,  BUZZ ALDRIN, R.J. MICAL AND DAVE HAYNIE ALL IN ONE HOUR . WHAT MORE COULD YOU ASK?

What can you say about a one hour (and 3 minutes!) documentary  film about a series of computers? One that takes you rushing down a wormhole into the days of your youth and then back to the future through a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows that in turns exhilarate, sadden and maybe, just maybe inspire hope for the future?

Viva Amiga: The Story of a Beautiful Machine is a brand-new production from Director/Producer Zach Weddington and the FilmBuff/Rocksteady team in the USA. It was funded via a Kickstarter campaign and has now gone on to take the iTunes download charts by storm (other sources are available, see our news item here.)

Skilfully rendered, Amiga Bill meets Amiga designer Jay Miner.
Skilfully rendered, Amiga Bill meets Amiga designer Jay Miner.

If you’ve never heard of the Commodore Amiga (or, dare I say it, were an Atari ST enthusiast back in the day), you might wonder what all the fuss is about.  Hold on a moment, and rewind back to our feature celebrating the 30th birthday of the computer that ‘came from the future’, and in 1985 started today’s multimedia revolution: https://retrocomputingnews.com/2015/07/23/happy-30th-birthday-amiga/

Suffice to say that the Amiga range did things that no other computer could do for a decade. Things that we take for granted today, but which all started there with the Amiga 1000, and its successors, which revolutionised computer art, music, photography and video production. Until those glittering dreams shattered and came tumbling down, through no fault of the Amiga’s creators. But something wonderful had happened. The world had changed.

The film

Viva Amiga

Through insightful pieces to camera with many people who, it has to be said, are still legends in the Amiga community and surprisingly accessible thanks to Facebook (in fact, they’re part of that community) seamlessly wrapped up in slick graphics and nostalgic archive footage from past promo videos and adverts, location pictures plus more recent retro computing community-based events and music footage from around the world, Viva Amiga opens up a wormhole back to a time when what we now take for granted in computers was new, and fresh, and when the little guys with the brains, the big ideas and  the soaring imagination really could break through into the future.

The film, backed with a powerful electro soundtrack by Ben Warfield and Josh Culler takes us from the early 1980s inception of the Amiga (later bought out by Commodore) as the astonishing concept of a small band of inspired technologists who thought they could leapfrog the functional but not very inspiring computer technology of the day (and how!), via the initially remarkable worldwide success of the affordable but powerful Amiga as the post 8-bit next step for Commodore, to the years of corporate greed and management incompetence that caused Commodore’s collapse in the USA and the domino effect that collapsed their subsidiaries around the globe.

R. J. Mical, Amiga software engineer, is one of many powerful voices presented from among the Amiga creators.
R. J. Mical, Amiga software engineer, is one of many powerful voices presented from among the Amiga creators.

Then, on a rocky road from the post-Commodore phase of ever-shifting sands where the Amiga technology was sold off and was eventually broken up amongst a number of different European and American companies whose reach in some cases largely exceeded their grasp, to the present time when new concepts of Amiga in hardware and software are being revived for what is presently a niche hobby market. Finally, it also looks at something of the inspired global community of retro Amiga fans or ‘Amigans’ who still love to work and play with the machine that, to hijack a phrase from one-time competitors Apple, really was designed ‘for the rest of us’.

For Amiga users past and present, if you lived through those times then this is a powerful nostalgia piece which will take you back with a bang, courtesy of the often emotional voices of many of those behind the power of Amiga.  With remarkable music and powerful visuals, Viva Amiga will in turns exhilarate you and sadden you. It will make you laugh and it may even make you cry for what was lost. But that’s the essence of the story of the computer that wouldn’t die, that still lives on in hundreds, maybe thousand of homes around the world, and lurks in lofts and attics waiting to be rediscovered by a new generation. It serves to remind you, and most definitely me, that the Amiga was never only about the hardware and the software, it was, and remains, as much about the people who created it and who used it. In a strange way, the Amiga is a part of us and we are part of it, and while that may have faded somewhat with the years, this film brings that reality back into bright, colourful focus.

Conclusion
The late, great, much-missed Amiga engineer Dave Needle (in the hat), to whom the film is dedicated, with part of the Amiga team.
The late, great, much-missed Amiga engineer Dave Needle (in the hat), to whom the film is dedicated, with part of the Amiga team.

This is a film with heart. If you’re looking for the dry detail of a Discovery Channel epic in Zach Weddington’s rawly-emotional but nonetheless highly-polished Amigan opus, you’re not exactly going to find that here. That would take a whole series of films, there’s only so much you can do in an hour and I’m not entirely sure there’s quite the material or the market out there for it. I’d love to see a two hour version of Viva Amiga; although I didn’t feel the film was exactly too short (and it’s not bad value to buy as a download) I was left wanting more. The film made me want more. Maybe there could be follow-ups exploring more of the post-Commodore phase and taking a wider look at what people are doing with the Amiga today. Who knows. Zach is working on another exciting retro project at the moment.

What you do get in spades from Viva Amiga: The Story of A Beautiful Machine (and it WAS beautiful, in form and concept) is the essence of the spirit of the machine and its makers, and if you look carefully you will also see your own reflection in the TV screen, which seems entirely appropriate.

In conclusion, if you’re an Amiga fan, apart from the chance to see more of the story than has been widely shown before, and much more of the people who still inspire the community today, what you will really get from this fascinating film is a desperate yearning to be back in those heady days when the future was being re-written by a crazy, inspired gang of people who, let’s face it, you’d just love to party with like it’s 1985.

Stuart Williams

More info

For further information and ways of buying Viva Amiga, check out the filmmakers’ website: https://amigafilm.com/

And their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/vivaamiga/

Images courtesy FilmBuff/Rocksteady

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Amiga documentary rockets up the charts

Viva Amiga!
Viva Amiga!

A recently released documentary film about one of the most popular and innovative home and multimedia computers of the 1980s-90s, the legendary Commodore Amiga (launched 1985) is rocketing up the charts.

Aimed at retro computing fans and computer history enthusiasts alike, Viva Amiga – the story of a beautiful machine has become a worldwide hit in the iTunes top ten documentary downloads, clearly striking a chord with its core audiences and Amiga users past and present.

As of yesterday, it had reached number 2 in the UK and Italy plus number 1 in Poland, 2 in Germany, 8 in France, 9 in Greece, 4 in the Netherlands., and 5 in Spain.

What is Viva Amiga about?

Director/Producer Zach Weddington was able to raise funds in 2011 to make the documentary, and it’s now available to watch in 12 languages and several streaming formats (see below).

The filmmakers describe Viva Amiga as follows:

“In a world of green on black, they dared to dream in color.

1985: An upstart team of Silicon Valley mavericks created a miracle: the Amiga computer. A machine made for creativity. For games, for art, for expression. Breaking from the mold set by IBM and Apple, this was something new. Something to change what people believed computers could do.

2016: The future they saw isn’t the one we live in now. Or is it?

From the creation of the world’s first multimedia digital art powerhouse…

to a bankrupt shell sold and resold into obscurity…

to a post-punk spark revitalized by determined fans.

Viva Amiga is a look at a digital dream….

…and the freaks, geeks and geniuses who brought it to life.

And the Amiga is still alive.”

The film features, amongst others, a number of well-known figures connected with the Amiga past and present, including Amiga engineers R.J. Mical, Dave Haynie and the late Dave Needle, as well as Trevor Dickinson, co-founder of A-Eon Technology (who doubles up as  Executive Producer).

World premiere

The World Premiere of Viva Amiga took place on 7 January at MAGFest 2017 in Washington DC, USA, as part of MAGFest’s Games on Film.

The makers have been busy submitting the film to festivals all across the United States and Europe. A showing in California, birthplace of the Amiga, is also in the works.  After they make the rounds in the United States, they’ll be heading to Europe, where the Amiga was most popular. They’re lining up dates for a European tour in Summer 2017, including the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland. Like their Facebook page for up-to-the-minute news.

Want to bring the film to your theatre or event in North America or Europe? Get in touch.

Where to get Viva Amiga

Viva Amiga is now available to watch worldwide. The film has been subtitled in Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish.

You can rent or buy a copy on the platform of your choice:

Check Facebook for options if you can’t connect with a download or copy in your country. The makers will be adding DVD & Blu-Ray options in February.
Retro Computing News will be reviewing Viva Amiga as soon as we can – watch this space!
More info

For further information, check out the filmmakers’ website: https://amigafilm.com/

And their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/vivaamiga/

Images courtesy Viva Amiga

New film being made for Sinclair Spectrum fans

Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict banner

Filming is under way for a new documentary,  Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict, a full length feature film (120-180 minutes, est.) which is aiming to take a detailed look at the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, its history, its developers, its games and its fans.

The movie, helmed by author, teacher and filmmaker Andy Remic, has been crowdfunded via a KickStarter campaign, and Mr Remic says:

“It will be a unique tribute to the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and have dramatic re-enactments, interviews with industry figures and people who grew up influenced by the Spectrum.”

Andy Remic - author, teacher and filmmaker
Andy Remic – author, teacher and filmmaker (pic Andy Remic)

Andy, who is from Lincoln, England, and is also a published fantasy and science fiction novelist, goes on:

“I’m making the film because, as one friend said, I am “a nerd” and an unashamed fanboy of the Speccy. It’s a not-for-profit film, and I’m making it with lots of love.”

Andy told Retro Computing News that he currently has such industry notables as Jon Ritman, Steve Wetherill, Jas Austin, Oliver Frey, Roger Kean, Simon Butler, Ben Daglish, Mev Dinc and John Romero signed up for the project, with the list growing daily!

Trailer

Anyone interested in the project can view a trailer for the film at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/andyremic/spectrum-addict-2015

Stills

Some early production stills are now online, and can be viewed via this link: Stills

For more info about the project and Andy Remic, check out

www.spectrumaddict.co.uk

www.andyremic.com

Historic UNIX film released online

From 'The UNIX System', 1982 (Courtesy AT&T Archives)
From ‘The UNIX System’, 1982 (Courtesy AT&T Archives)

The AT & T Archives have released an historic film produced at Bell Laboratories in 1982, entitled ‘The UNIX System: Making Computers More Productive’.

This is bound to be of interest to computer historians and fans of UNIX, one of the world’s most important operating systems.

The film, which is introduced by Victor A. Vyssorsky, then Executive Director of Research Communications Principles, is just short of half an hour long, and is viewable on YouTube in the AT&T Tech Channel.

See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tc4ROCJYbm0

New AT&T archive films can be found every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at: http://techchannel.att.com/archives