“Distant Planet: The Six Chapters of Simona," directed by Josh Blaaberg, is a call-back to a not-so-distant time.
Disco as we know it may have died in the ‘80s, but Europeans never lost their appetite for the synth-heavy sound of dance music that was informed by the likes of Giorgio Moroder and Kraftwerk. The death of disco meant that American musicians were producing the genre less, and imports to Europe became costly as the supply went down, so Italian producers and musicians took matters into their own hands with their own productions. German record label ZYX defined this phenomenon as “Italo Disco,” giving the genre a launching pad from which to take off by naming it, packaging it and marketing it.
To mark the era of Italo Disco, artist and filmmaker Josh Blaaberg continues the Second Summer of Love series that commemorates the British rave scene in the late ‘80s through a series produced in collaboration with Gucci and Frieze with “Distant Planet: The Six Chapters of Simona,” a 30-minute film that combines fictional narrative with archival footage and interviews that recall the rise, the magic, and the fall of Italo Disco where ‘80s Italo Disco legends Simona Zanini, Fred Ventura and Alberto Stylòo come together to find immortality on the slopes of Mount Etna.
” Distant Planet” begins with a newscast that depicts New York City rioting over Italo Disco records and calls for fountains to be filled with Campari. It then shows a fictional account of Zanini at present trying to buy groceries and the cashier informing her that her card has become declined. After, Blaaberg combines voices from that era with archival footage and unidentified people recalling the Italo Disco scene:
“You go to the beach and you dance tonight.”
“The discoteca was a fantasy”
“It was a piece of paradise you can have for a few hours before coming back to everyday life”
“Italo disco came after a dark period in Italy.”
The three legends come together to, as Simona put it, “meet each other and think about the past.” They dine in a dimly-lit palazzo and reminisce over the past before finding that immortality on Mount Etna.
“The Six Chapters of Simona” shines new light on a genre that has nearly faded away, explaining how it served as a form of escapism for young people who lived during the ‘70s, when Italy was rife with political instability and terrorism. It highlights its cultural impact, the names who defined the genre, like Brian Ice, Koto, and Darryl Scott, while creating an entirely new fantasy filled with beautiful people, and the heavy-hitting, synth-filled melodies that were Italo Disco.