Becoming Led Zeppelin: MacMahon’s Docu to Premiere at Venice Film Fest

The new documentary from director Bernard MacMahon offers an inside look at the rise of one of the world’s biggest rock bands.

The Venice Film Festival has added Bernard MacMahon’s music documentary Becoming Led Zeppelin to its official 2021 lineup.

The film, which will have its world premiere out of competition at the 78th Venice festival, is billed as an inside look into the early days of the legendary rock band. The documentary follows the four members of Led Zeppelin — Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham and Robert Plant — as they move through the British music scene of the 1960s, gigging at small clubs to a fateful rehearsal in 1968 that changes their lives forever. The film culminates in Led Zeppelin’s 1970 tour of America, where they became the number one band in the world.

“Before the stairway and the dragon, before the gold and the girls, there were simply four men and their love of music,” goes the film’s blurb.

MacMahon is best known for his American Epic series for the BBC and PBS, where he looked at some of the first recordings of roots music in the United States and their impact on the culture. The feature film version of the series won the Audience Award at the Sydney International Film Festival and his musical The American Epic Sessions won both the Audience Award and Discovery Award at the Calgary International Film Festival as well as a Grammy.

He co-wrote and produced Becoming Led Zeppelin with Allison McGourty.

“With Becoming Led Zeppelin my goal was to make a documentary that looks and feels like a musical,” MacMahnon said. “I wanted to weave together the four diverse stories of the band members before and after they formed their group with large sections of their story advanced using only music and imagery and to contextualize the music with the locations where it was created and the world events that inspired it. I used only original prints and negatives, with over 70,000 frames of footage manually restored, and devised fantasia sequences, inspired by Singin’ In The Rain, layering unseen performance footage with montages of posters, tickets and travel to create a visual sense of the freneticism of their early career.”

The 2021 Venice Film Festival runs September 1-11.