Break it all poster.

Break It All: The History of Rock in Latin America

In Documentaries by Ricardo LapeiraLeave a Comment

What exactly is rock? For a majority, it is a musical genre. For others, it is a lifestyle. And for some, the really devote ones, it is the possibility of being free, it is liberty itself. Falling somewhere between the latter two, I found ‘BREAK IT ALL: The History of Rock in Latin America’ to be a powerful series documentary by Netflix. That’s why I found it surprising to see many negative comments on the Internet. 

The series is not perfect. Among many of the things that could have been better, I think there was content for much more. It leaves aside many aspects of the rock world in the Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. And yet, it manages to touch on some critical political and social aspects of rock. When viewed in its totality, I think that something like this should have existed a long time ago, and hopefully, it will inspire similar productions in the future.

If you haven’t seen it, or have and did not like it, I want to share with you what I thought of it so that maybe you can look at it from a more positive perspective. If you did like it, I hope you will agree with me on some of my thoughts. 

A History of Rock in Latin America

One of the things that apparently pissed people the most about Break It All is the fact that it does not include Brazil. For some people, the series was incomplete because of this. I personally think this is a valid critique, but at the same time, I feel that, because Brazil is such a big country, and a Portuguese speaking one, it would have made the series too broad, or in other words, too ambitious. This could have easily derailed the entire concept, making it hard to keep a cohesive narrative thread throughout the series. I think that from a producer’s perspective this was a strategic decision. 

Instead of covering the entire Latin American region, Break It All focuses on two countries: Argentina and Mexico, particularly in Mexico City and Buenos Aires, their respective capitals, and where most of the music scene took and still takes place. These countries are, without a doubt, and with the exception of Brazil, the two most important representatives of rock in Latin America, so this comes as no surprise. 

It also does not surprise that countries like Chile, Colombia, and Perú are touched upon in a light manner. Something similar goes for other countries that are not even mentioned. Although many of them also have their own history of rock, including them might have made the series too ambitious. Again, this seems like a correct production decision.

The good thing about leaving some things out, in general, is that, at least for the most optimistic of us, it leaves the door open for a second season. Who knows, if the series does well, we might even expect to see more amazing content on the history of Latin American rock. 

Objectivity

Another of the things I saw that people criticized about the series is its supposed lack of objectivity. I agree that many bands were left out. However, I feel that the series did mention some of the most important bands and musicians, at least from a commercial perspective. 

I do not feel that the series leaves the impression that this is the final word when it comes to defining the history of rock in Latin America. There will always be people who think of this as the final word, but that is not a problem of the series, but of a lack of critical perspective from the audience. If the series were to cover every single band that has had an important impact on Latin rock, then it would become too long. 

I think that the series is a great starting point for those who know nothing about Latin American rock as well as for those who know a thing or two. I personally learned a lot. Even though I don’t consider myself an expert, I am fully aware that I know more about Latin rock than the average person, and yet, I was hooked and am currently researching many new names. I am discovering many new artists and expanding my musical repertoire thanks to the series. 

Another thing that people seemed to find controversial was the historical scope of the series. That it left out the XXI century was apparently a way of saying that rock is dead. I don’t know if that is something that can be read between the lines. To me, it is just a way of narrowing down the time frame to a specific point. Even if this were not the real reason, there seems to be a good topic for discussion: is rock dead?

Lastly, in terms of objectivity, one of the things I also saw was that producer Gustavo Santaolalla, who is one of the many musicians interviewed, favored the bands he produced throughout his career. This is only partially true, and to be honest I don’t see why this is bad. If the bands he produced are good, which most of them are, I don’t see why he should not include them. On the contrary, I think his perspective as someone who has been directly involved throughout rock’s local history is very valuable. 

What I like the Most About Break It All

One of the things I liked the most about the series is how it goes beyond the purely musical aspects of rock. Break It All discusses other important aspects that should not be left aside. It discusses political and social aspects that are key to understanding where the music came from. After all, as I said at the beginning, rock isn’t just a music genre. For the cases of Argentina, Chile, and Mexico, it discusses dictatorships, repression, and police brutality as a way to suppress rock. 

On a different topic, the visual archive used is stunning. The footage used is just amazing and portrays some of rock’s most iconic moments. For newcomers and fans alike, this is just one of the strongest points in favor of the series. 

Is Rock Dead?

The best content isn’t that which everyone likes. Break It All has definitely triggered some important conversations. Most importantly, it has given Latin American rock a second life. Hopefully, new generations will find rock’s narrative intriguing, and they will be motivated to research and listen to some of the most powerful music the continent has given us. 

Long live rock.

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