Damir Ludvig is an international DJ/EDM star who first entered the realm of filmmaking in 2010 with Astralis – Institution, a documentary about a world-renowned nightclub party founded by him and fellow local DJs in his home Croatia. Now he’s back as executive producer of another, similarly-themed music doc Papaya: Make Some Noise!, the premiere of which will be Thursday, June 12 in Scruffy City Hall as part of the Knoxville Film and Music Festival.
If it does as well as Ludvig’s last film—and it should, because it’s a bigger, better-funded production—then expect Papaya to Make Some Noise on the international film festival circuit. Ludvig spoke to us recently about his career, the new movie, and the phenomenal Croatian club scene which is the film’s focus.
*Tell me a little about your career in music.
When I was finishing high school I bought a drum machine and started programming beats. In 1993 I was the lead vocalist in a project named Fresh Style and it hit number one on the Croatian National Television’s chart for two weeks and number two for seven weeks. As a member of the electronic dance music project Dogma, I first had an opportunity to perform internationally and work on the album called Land of Utopia in Taipei, Taiwan.
After this CD was released, my international DJ career started booming. Since then I’ve played in Berlin, London, Bristol, Tel Aviv… so many exciting cities all over the world. As a member of Ludvig & Stelar, Dogma, Dogma 3000, Legura and Rotterwolfe, I’ve been releasing music for ages, but in 2009 I changed my style and started releasing dance floor tracks under my own name.
*I understand you already have an award-winning music documentary, Astralis, under your belt. What’s the story behind it?
In 2010 I finished producing a music documentary called Astralis an Institution. It’s a film about Astralis, a club night Goran Stetic, Goran Vlajic and I started in 1998 in Zagreb, Croatia. The film was directed by Igor Neljak, but basically Igor and I did most of the work on this documentary including editing, music selection, screenplay etc. It was a “no budget” film relying mostly on friends and good will and it took us three years to finish it… The film was an official selection of a couple of US festivals. It received numerous nominations.
*The new film is about the Papaya club on an island in Croatia, and the music scene which has sprung up around it. What is the scene there like, and what makes it special?
Croatia is an amazingly beautiful country located on the coast of Adriatic Sea. There are numerous islands in the Adriatic and Pag is just one of them. Pag is very famous for its Moonlike surface, UFO sights, top quality sea salt, cheese, lamb, lace and 2,000-year-old olive trees. Just one of the hundreds of beautiful beaches on Pag is Zrce.
Papaya, Kalypso, Aquarius, Noa, Euphoria are the clubs on Zrce, making this beach a clubbers’ paradise, every summer. The owners, DJ’s and staff have a strong friendship and respect amongst each other at all clubs on Zrce and sometimes other clubs even join together in order to make large events. But, Papaya is definitely the leading club on Zrce.
*So how did the film itself come about?
For more than a decade, parties in Papaya were shot on video and there were piles of this material just waiting for something to happen. The idea of putting those materials together is as old as Papaya itself. It just needed to mature to its own tempo and come to life.
However, my role in Papaya: Make Some Noise! project is totally different than my role in Astralis an Institution. I’m a representative for the film promotion and film festivals and I enjoy that role very much… Papaya: Make Some Noise! is a much bigger production.
The main protagonists in the film are Axwell, Carl Cox, Hardwell, Crookers, Alesso, and The Shapeshifters. Papaya club is the home of the Swedish House Mafia, Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto, Snoop Dogg, Hardwell, Nicky Romero and many other music superstars every summer, so that itself is a story interesting enough to be heard!
*Have you performed there yourself? What has your own experience at Papaya been like?
Not only have I played at Papaya, but I’ve also produced music for Papaya’s famous Day & Night vol.1, vol.2 and vol.3 compilations. I adore my DJ sets in Papaya. The club is equipped with the best video and audio equipment in order to satisfy the needs of so many superstar DJs, (Paul van Dyk, Armin van Buuren, Axwell, Seth Troxler, Carl Cox…) each with totally different demands. There are beautiful girls on stage making the vibe just perfect. And many people wonder: “Does Papaya in Croatia have the most beautiful women in the world?“ According to DJ Mag Papaya is one of the top 100 best clubs in the world. Not only that, but it has been on this list for four years in succession and this year its rating reached number 23, so it’s far from a secret location and people visiting Zrce beach are coming from 80 countries worldwide every season.
Of course, I’m friends with all of the staff there and it feels like home. The audience is very international. Brits, Slovenians, Brazilians, Italians, Germans, Israeli, Serbs, Bosnians, Hungarians, Africans, Americans, Australians and people from all over the globe are ready to party hard and I feel like a conductor when I play there. I conduct party people to forget about where they came from and become one with this amazing summer vibe. Papaya is located on the beach, just a couple of yards from the sea, so you can smell the salt in the air, feel the mild breeze and see people bungee jumping just above the dance floor.
*Where has the film screened so far, and what are the aspirations for it?
Right after the local screening on June 4th at the Zagreb Tour Film Festival, the 2014 Knoxville Tennessee Film &Music Festival will be holding an actual world premiere of our Papaya: Make Some Noise! music documentary. It will take place in on Thursday, June 12 at 9:15 pm. After that, Papaya’s next stops are the San Pedro International Film Festival in California, The International Festival competition for the “world’s best tourism-film”, The CIFFT Circuit 2014 in Austria, Starigrad Paklenica International Film Festival and Vukovar Film Festival in Croatia.
Papaya: Make Some Noise! will screen on Thursday, June 12 at 9 p.m. at Scruffy City Hall as part of the Knoxville Film and Music Festival.