Dubfire: Above Ground Level Takes Viewers Inside a DJ's World

Dubfire: Above Ground Level Takes Viewers Inside a DJ's World
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"A lot of DJ documentaries have a glossier perspective of what we do. I wanted a warts-and-all perspective," Dubfire says of his aim for the new documentary, Dubfire: Above Ground Level.  The 77-minute movie, which will screen at the Miami Film Festival Wednesday night, begins with a career retrospective showing Dubfire's first snippets of fame working with Sharam as the duo Deep Dish; they won Grammys and collaborated with superstars such as Madonna. Then, just in time for the EDM boom, Dubfire transformed himself into a solo act specializing in techno and had to start over in making a name for himself.

After directors Michael Koczynski and Mino Kodama followed Dubfire around the Time Warp Festival for a short film, their subject enjoyed the footage so much he suggested they expand it to a full-length movie. But there was one condition: "I said whatever you do, don't shoot a typical dance music documentary with all the clichés. I wanted to instead explore all the sacrifices that made in our crazy electronic music industry."

Taking the glamour and glitz out of the DJ profession, the movie shows the mundane aspects of always being on the road traveling from Ibiza to Dubai to Las Vegas. It also shows the exercise and physical conditioning the 45-year-old Dubfire puts in to handle the late nights.

The opening few minutes of the movie end up being the most topical. It shows that Dubfire was born Ali Shirazinia, an immigrant who came to America with his family from Iran in 1979 when he was just 7 years old. Though the film wrapped before Trump's travel ban was announced, Dubfire expresses outrage about the proposed measure. "I live in D.C., and everyone is scratching their head on the travel ban. It's bizarre. No Iranian has ever been involved in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Now my relatives can't come to visit."

Dubfire doesn't plan to visit his relatives in their home country either. He hasn't returned to Iran since he left nearly 40 years ago. "It's not a place I feel safe going to. They could target me as a musician, take my passport, and not let me leave the country. I believe in freedom of expression, and there are no clubs in Iran, no alcohol. It's an Islamic Fundamentalist regime, but the people of Iran shouldn't be punished by the actions of their government."

Immigration and American/Iranian relations are topics dear to Dubfire's heart. But the movie sticks to his life as a musician. For those who want to see the man at work, Dubfire will play at Ultra Music Festival later this month and perform a set March 23 at Heart Nightclub. For those who have danced to his music and want to learn more about the man in the DJ booth, Dubfire thinks the movie and his story can be summarized in one sentence: "It's about an immigrant chasing the American dream."

Dubfire: Above Ground Level
7 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, at O Cinema Miami Beach, 500 71st St., Miami Beach; 305-571-7790; o-cinema.org. Tickets cost $13 to $40 via miamifilmfestival.com.

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