A unique documentary captures one thousand musicians performing in tandem
The documentary We Are The Thousand captures the miraculous story of how Foo Fighters fandom turned into the biggest rock band in the world. The film takes fans backstage with Rockin’ 1000 where a thousand musicians gathered in Cesena, Italy in July 2015 to perform “Learn To Fly” in hopes of convincing the Foo Fighters to perform in their small Italian town. The idea was insane, but it worked.
The band is made up of 250 drummers, 350 guitarists, 250 singers and 150 bassists who gathered — at their own expense — in Cesena to perform and film a video for the Foo Fighters. The documentary takes fans inside the making of the video that features musicians from all walks of life aged eight to sixty come together to create a video that has now surpassed 52 million views worldwide.
The idea was conceived by Fabio Zaffagnini, who wanted to grab the Foo Fighters’ attention with something that had never been done before: launch the “Biggest Rock Band on Earth.” Zaffagnini’s team, many of whom had doubts that a thousand musicians could play together in sync without being a disaster, marched forward with their mission. The band was assembled via video auditions with the team ultimately inviting those they liked to join.
Financial burdens, such as securing sponsors, and technical issues like audio concerns, plagued the team as they attempted to pull off the feat. Can one thousand musicians really play together without it sounding like a complete mess? Well, the documentary proves that it’s definitely possible.
The film details the group’s perseverance as they overcome these issues and more, and eventually film the video that caught the attention of Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.
“The risk is that the guitarists wouldn’t behave,” shares Claudio Cavallardo, Rockin’ 1000’s Guitar Guru and Music Advisor. “They have a tradition of playing their archetypical role as the ‘prima donnas.’ Still, I think that the message, however subtle, got through: ‘We’re a thousand players. There’s no room for virtuosity or musical masturbation.’ Rockin’ 1000 is a sociological and musical experiment. You need to obliterate your ego. It’s very Zen-like. It can bring only good to any musician.”
It’s also fascinating to think how 250 drummers could be fed the same click track through headphones and keep the band aligned. However, lights were also on display to help keep time for those who couldn’t hear the click.
The film includes an appearance by the Foo Fighters who made their way to Cesena in November 2015 where they performed a three hour concert. The members of Rockin’ 1000 were in attendance with Grohl inviting a couple to perform with them on stage.
The film also shows how they reassembled, even larger, a year later for a 17 song set at Manuzzi Stadium in Cesena. The band has since grown to encompass more than 19k musicians with an audition form active on their website.
Written and directed by Anita Rivaroli, We Are The Thousand is produced by Simone Catania and Charlotte Uzu with Francesca Portalupi serving as executive producer. The 88 minute Italian-language film (with English subtitles) made its premiere at SXSW Film Festival 2021, a year later than expected. It was originally scheduled for last year’s festival, which was ultimately canceled due the ongoing global crisis. We Are The Thousand was named the SXSW Audience Award winner for 2020 Spotlight Section.