VR Short Film: Latvian Rock Band & Youth Revolution
The untold story of Perkons – the Soviet-Latvian rock band that used hard rock and subversive lyrics to shatter Soviet society’s façade of power and stability in the 1980s – is finally coming to light through a virtual reality short-film experience, “Perkons: A VR Rockumentary.”
The film was developed by advertising agency, Fallon Minneapolis, with support from the government of Latvia – a passion project for the director, Cory McLeod. He felt “Perkons” was an important story, and one that needed to be told in a way that the viewer could feel fully immersed in the raw, reality of 1980s Soviet Union. VR was the clear answer and now is the perfect moment – both because of the technological capabilities and the current social/political climate, largely led by courageous youth.
Perkons (pronounced “pear-khans” and translated as “Thunder” in English) was founded in Soviet Latvia in the early 1980s. Although the band didn’t start with the intention of opposing the Soviet regime, Perkons’ music became the soundtrack of the first open revolution in the U.S.S.R. As a result, the regime banned Perkons twice, threatened them and tried to force the band’s leader to leave the Soviet Union. Perkons’ fans were also persecuted, and the harder the regime tried to silence Perkons, the more powerful their music became.
In the late 80s, the idea of independence was gaining traction in Latvia and grew into a revolution, aptly named The People’s Awakening. In 1991, Moscow sent in paramilitary troops to quash the protestors. Fearing an all-military assault, ordinary Latvians formed human shields around vulnerable targets and what ensued was a standoff known as the Barricades. Perkons performed day and night at the Barricades to bolster the morale of their brothers and sisters. After thirteen days and thirteen dead, Moscow retreated. The rest is international music history. Mikhail Gorbechov has said that the fall of the Soviet Union started in the Baltic States, and Perkons’ part in this was essential and inestimable.
Creativity – often used as a force to create impactful and sustainable change – is evident through the film’s music, as well as the custom HTC Vive VR experience itself. “Perkons” is a story laden with pre-internet virality, underground information sharing, and cobbled electronics from found parts, now brought to life through an immersive, virtual experience premiering just in time for the 100th Anniversary of the Latvian Republic this year. The film was made possible thanks to assistance from the American Latvian Association Culture Fund and support from the Juris Podnieks Studio and Latvian State Archive of Audio Visual Documents.