DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema

Cassette: A Documentary Mixtape

Director - Zack Taylor - 2016

"Greasy movie"
Where have all the cassette tapes gone? Documentary explores the die-hard world of tape enthusiasts, and dives into a new factory of the obsolete technology in the US - from the East End Film Festival in London

Vinyl is seeing a revival in the UK, particularly amongst music collectors: sales grew for the eighth consecutive year to reach more than 2.1 million last year. But who thought the same could happen to cassette tapes? A new factory has now opened in the US – not even Lou Ottens, the inventor of the compact cassette, could anticipate a revival of his creation. Cassette: A Documentary Mixtape unveils some aspects of the new cassette cult.

After three years collecting interviews of cassette lovers, DJs in the US and in Britain, bands and radio presenters, Zack Taylor had enough material to make a documentary. He thought of making a film just on cassette piracy, and another one on bands that cannot afford the costs of a studio and still use cassette as a medium to market their songs. But then Taylor found out that the inventor of the cassette was still alive in Netherlands. Lou Ottens is central to the film narrative.

Still very active, despite being an octogenarian, Ottens tells the filmmaker why he had that idea: “I am always driven by frustration, by things that don’t work”. Before 1963, the magnetic tapes were enormous devices and not very practical to use. Often recordings were damaged and tapes enrolled in a complicated maze. A year after Ottens created the compact cassette, Japanese technicians were copying it. So Philips and Ottens worked together to develop a standard medium in which everyone could easily personalise their recordings. It took 50 years to die; and maybe it is not entirely dead.

Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore explains that “for him the cassette has to do with the sonic atmosphere. It sounds best. I feel the sound more emotional [compared to CDs]”. Another aspect that conquered many collectors was that for the first time people could record their favourite songs in the order they wanted. They would dedicate it to lovers and family members too. Besides, it was possible to decorate the cassette case individually. It is clear that the nostalgic movement has more to do with people and memories than with the technology itself. In fact, when asked if Ottens misses his invention he denies it. He misses the team of people he used to work with.

A single factory in Missouri has now replaced Philips, Sony and BASF in the once thriving cassette business, and its workers may seem lunatic and nostalgic. Henry Rollins, an American musician, actor, radio host and formerly frontman of the California hardcore punk band Black Flag disagrees: “CDs sanitised the world of music”.

A similar nostalgic and obsolete technology in the entertainment world was explored this year in a documentary. The Lost Arcade (Kurt Vincent) visited the few surviving video game arcades in the US – click here for our review of the film.

Cassette: A Documentary Mixtape is part of East End Film Festival, which is taking place currently in London – just check our their website for more information. The film is currently seeking a distributor in the UK – click here for more information about the movie.

You can watch the film trailer below:


"Greasy movie"

By Maysa Monção - 30-06-2016

By Maysa Monção - 30-06-2016

Maysa Monção is a Brazilian writer, teacher, translator, editor and art performer who currently lives in London. She has a Masters Degree in Film Studies from Tor Vergata University in Rome, Italy, ...

DMovies Poll

Are the Oscars dirty enough for DMovies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

Forget Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and the [Read More...]
Just a few years back, finding a film [Read More...]
A lot of British people would rather forget [Read More...]
Another year has gone by, and DMovies is [Read More...]
A small family of four lives in a [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]

Read More

Is 65 the new Jurassic Park?


Marina Hillquist - 28-03-2023

Marina Hillquist argues that the American sci-fi action thriller by the creators of A Quiet Place had the potential to unseat the monopoly of the Jurassic Park franchise, but it struggled to escape some familiar trappings [Read More...]

Riotsville USA

Sierra Pettengill

Eoghan Lyng - 28-03-2023

American documentary conducts a probing investigation into one of the USA's most shameful moments in history, the Vietnam War, offering few answers but many damning insights - in cinemas on Friday, March 31st [Read More...]

Reclaiming Vincente Minnelli’s overlooked gem


Isy Santini - 25-03-2023

Not quite what it seems: Isy Santini takes a dirty look at Vincente Minnelli's Brigadoon and argues that the film - which most thought to be a musical - was in reality a horror piece! [Read More...]

Facebook Comment

Website Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *