Review: We Intend To Cause Havoc (Dir: Gio Arlotta, 2019)

We Intend To Cause Havoc is an understated documentary about the little known but highly influential Zamrock music scene of Zambia in the 1970s and the group who were the nation’s equivalent of The Rolling Stones: Witch.

After the reissue of their albums in 2010, Witch (an acronym of We Intend To Cause Havoc) found a new audience; among them, the filmmaker Gio Arlotta (who has these reissues to thanks for his discovery of the band). In this documentary, Arlotta (who directed the film) travels to Zambia with two young Dutch musicians in tow in a bid to track down the two surviving members. Arlotta wants to learn more about Witch, Zambia’s music history, learn about their music, get a greater sense of who the band were, and why they disappeared. Witch’s music still sounds fresh and prescient today; the bluesy hooks, psychedelic riffs and garage rock energy instantly catchy and make for instant earworms.

The lack of original footage of the band is one of the few parts of the documentary’s downfall, although what is left is utilised to its most total effect. However, in place of this, we do get to see some previously unseen footage of a James Brown concert, which is superbly preserved and wonderful to see. Some may say the documentary relies on a tried and tested formula like that used in 2012’s highly successful Searching for Sugar Man (but without the latter’s polish); however, it works here in many ways. There are a scrappiness to the film and a bristling energy thanks to the music and the boundless energy of frontman Emanyeo “Jagari” Chanda, Zambia’s answer to Mick Jagger. Now a gemstone miner who does backbreaking work to support his family, Chanda takes to the stage after a forty-year hiatus like no time has passed, a born frontman with energy to rival those inspired by him his music. Chanda’s pure natural charisma, combined with fellow Zamrock musician Victor Kasoma, the Zambian Jimmy Hendrix, is terrific and their repartee genuine. Visits to music studios and musician’s homes and lives make for endlessly fascinating viewing, but there’s a little too much on the director’s involvement in the film, rather than the subject’s themselves.

There is a bittersweet tone that lingers throughout the film; the belief that Zamrock should be much better known. “It can’t just end here,” says Chanda. “This is the new beginning.” And if viewers glean anything from We Intend To Cause Havoc (W.I.T.C.H.), hopefully it will be.