The Rise of the Synths

The Rise of the Synths (Spanish: La rebelión de los sintes) is a 2019 documentary film written and directed by Iván Castell and narrated by filmmaker and composer John Carpenter. The film explores the origins and growth of the electronic music genre known as synthwave, charting its rise in popularity from the underground online music scene[1] to its recent mainstream exposure following use in retro-themed soundtracks, notably the 2011 film Drive[2] and more recently the television series Stranger Things.[3]

The Rise of the Synths
The Rise of the Synths film poster.png
Film poster
Directed byIván Castell
Produced by
  • Ana Castañosa Bielsa
  • Javier Moreno
  • Rebeca Villar Rodríguez
  • Iván Castell
Written byIván Castell
Narrated byJohn Carpenter
Music byOGRE
  • Beltrán García
  • Adrián Barcelona
Edited byIván Castell
  • Castell & Moreno Films
  • 9AM Media Lab
Release date
  • 1 November 2019 (2019-11-01) (In-Edit Film Festival)
  • 13 December 2019 (2019-12-13) (Spain)
Running time
80 minutes
  • Spain
  • United States
  • English
  • French
  • Spanish
Director Ivan Castell introducing The Rise of the Synths at the UK premiere

It is the first feature documentary exploring this underground subculture.


The Rise of the Synths initially began as a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in April 2016.[4] That campaign failed, and was relaunched in October 2016 on Indiegogo, this time reaching its goal.[5] Over the next year, the film took part of the Documentary Campus Masterschool,[6] also participating in the Doc/Fest Sheffield MeetMarket.[7]

The film had its world premiere at the In-Edit Festival in Barcelona on 1 November 2019,[8] with its international premiere on 15 November in London at the Doc'n Roll Festival.[9][10] It has also been screened at International Film Festival Rotterdam[11] (Nederlands), Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema (Argentina)[12], F.A.M.E. Festival Paris (France)[13] and Melbourne Documentary Film Festival (Australia).


Power Glove interview in the Rise of the Synths

Along John Carpenter - as narrator - the film contains various interviews with both established and upcoming synthwave artists, exploring their sources of inspiration which range from early electronic pioneers such as Giorgio Moroder, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream[14] to a collective love of 1980's films and video games.[15]

Artists featuring in the film include:

For many of them it was their first time on camera.[16] It is the only time extremely private and anonymous artists like Power Glove, Carpenter Brut, Gost, Lazerhawk, Miami Nights 1984, 80s Stallone or MPM Soundtracks, agreed to be recorded on camera and show their faces. Some of them like Carpenter Brut, MPM Soundtracks, Gost or Power Glove decided to participate but remaining faceless.

Synth RiderEdit

The film arch-narrative is driven by a fictional character, the Synth Rider (also known as Synthrider, without spaces), created by Spanish Director Iván Castell in 2015 played by Spanish actor Rubén Martinez.[17] He is a lonely driver who time-travels in a Delorean and who comes from the 80s with the only mission of preserving the legacy of its Masters: the electronic pioneers Giorgio Moroder, John Carpenter, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream (among others).

The Synth Rider' first appearance in The Rise of the Synths film

The character first appeared on the crowdfunding campaign video of the feature documentary The Rise of the Synths that started in April 2016 on Kickstarter.[18] That campaign failed, but the character re-appeared in a second campaign video[19] (as the leader of #LaResistance movement), that re-launched on Indiegogo.[20]

He is the side-protagonist in the feature film, time-travelling - from one influential decade to the previous one - in a Delorean, guided by the voice of the narrator: John Carpenter. As journalist Ben Beaumont-Thomas described at The Guardian review of the film: "Carpenter is employed as a sensei-like narrator, recording his observations on to a cassette tape to be taken back in time by a Gosling-type pretty-boy street punk driving a DeLorean".[21]

The director created him "as an homage of the Mad Max’s Night Rider character and Ryan Gosling in Drive"[22] and as a "metaphor of the time travel backward that most people experience when they discover this subculture. He is the artists, fans, music, films, all together in one person – with a kickass They Live neck tattoo"[23]. French journalist Nicolas Plomee points out another reference to the 80s classic film "Back to the future": "The reference to Back to the future (1985) from Robert Zemeckis is accentuated by those scenes, half-way into Drive (2010) from Nicolas Winding Refn, (...) and Mad Max (1979) from George Miller, where the character drives a DeLorean."[24]

Being a readaptation of a longtime archetype used in the retro scene - the lone night rider driving an 80s sport car - the character was well received by the Synthwave fans, and the term Synthrider was adopted organically by the community as a way of referring themselves as Synthwave fans, starting to populate as a hashtag on Twitter[25] and Instagram[26] profiles in 2016.

Director Iván Castell declared that this character wasn't supposed to be in the final film, he was originally created for a mood trailer as a way of catching the attention of film producers. It then was re-used in the first crowdfunding campaign and it worked so well, that he decided to integrate him in the upcoming film.[27]


Reviewing the film, Cinemania said, "It will delight music lovers and fans of synthesizers".[28] Rob Dyson of ForeverSynth says director and writer Ivan Castell "hits all the right notes in terms of why and how the music and iconic imagery appeals - even to those who weren't born in the 70s or 80s."[29] Inaki Ortiz Gasoc at El Contraplano said "The aesthetic is careful and prevents this from being a classic boring documentary of talking heads" with "some fantastic film performances following the canons of the musical movement with its Delorean". Jorge Loser at Espinof commented that "Carpenter's voice serves as a connection between blocks with creative tips and reflections on his career and his role in this whole new movement."[30] The view from the Guardian's Bill Beaumont-Thomas was more mixed, with him praising the film's “admirable production values”, particularly the “impressively produced interstitial [fictional] segments”, but that the documentary was “stylish but shallow” and “trades deep analysis for platitudes and boring asides”.[31]


The film's original soundtrack is composed by OGRE. In support of the film, Lakeshore Records also released an Official Companion Album in 2017 [32][33] which received positive reviews and featured exclusive music from various synthwave artists.[34][35][36][37]

Track listing
1."Deckard Returns"Chrome Canyon3:32
2."The Vale of Shadows"Gunship6:02
3."Fatal Affair"Power Glove3:26
4."Makita"Geno Lenardo2:37
5."Idle Withdrawal"Com Truise4:20
6."Lost in a Love"Daniel Davies3:44
7."Silver Shadow"Robert Parker5:34
8."A Mission to Remember"Waveshaper5:10
9."Black Rain"Code Elektro4:44
10."The Osbourne Effect"German Engineering2:24
11."Triage"Giorgio Moroder & Raney Shockne2:24
12."Night Stalker"Carpenter Brut3:41
13."Crash & Burn"John Bergin2:47
14."Dead of Night"Dance with the Dead4:06
15."A Hero's Journey"Lazerhawk6:33
16."Rebar (Prologue)"OGRE3:36
17."Fleshman"John Bergin4:49
18."Stargate"Mega Drive5:09
19."Appearance of the Mysterious Traveller"Voyag3r7:32

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ In-Edit. "IN-EDIT :: The Rise Of The Synths". Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  2. ^ "Revisiting the Drive Soundtrack: The Artists Discuss the Impact of the Music". Vehlinggo. 7 September 2016. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  3. ^ Shah, Neil (28 January 2019). "Synthwave, the Sound of an '80s Childhood, Goes Mainstream". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  4. ^ "The Rise of the Synths (80s retro music documentary)". Kickstarter. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  5. ^ "The Rise of the Synths". Indiegogo. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  6. ^ "Documentary Campus e.V." Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  7. ^ 8466844. "Sheffield Doc/Fest Festival Programme 2017". Issuu. Retrieved 23 March 2021.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ In-Edit. "IN-EDIT :: The Rise Of The Synths". Retrieved 11 November 2019.
  9. ^ "Doc'n Roll Film Festival - The Rise of The Synths". Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  10. ^ "UK premiere of Masterschool film THE RISE OF THE SYNTHS on 15 November in London : Documentary Campus e.V." Retrieved 11 November 2019.
  11. ^ "The Rise of the Synths | IFFR". Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  12. ^ "[22] BAFICI | The Rise of the Synths, por Daniel Nuñez - A Sala Llena". Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  13. ^ "La Gaîté Lyrique | The Rise of the Synths". La Gaîté Lyrique (in French). Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  14. ^ "The Rise of the Synths Official Companion Album Is Out Today". Vehlinggo. 8 December 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  15. ^ IFFR
  16. ^ "Director Iván Castell on – Rise Of The Synths | FilmJuice". Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  17. ^ "The Rise of the Synths - Crowdfunding campaign". Vimeo.
  18. ^ "The Rise of the Synths – Director Interview". Newretrowave.
  19. ^ "The Rise of the Synths - #LARESISTANCE Crowdfunding campaign".
  21. ^ "The Rise of the Synths review – the world's most nostalgic music scene". the Guardian. 13 March 2020. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  22. ^ "Melbourne Documentary Film Festival 2020: Interview with Iván Castell, Director of THE RISE OF THE SYNTHS".
  23. ^ "Melbourne Documentary Film Festival 2020: Interview with Iván Castell, Director of THE RISE OF THE SYNTHS". Film Inquiry.
  24. ^ Mushroom, Section26- (9 September 2020). "Musical Ecran 2020 / "Rise of the synths" de Ivan Castell". Section26 (in French). Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  25. ^ "Twitter hashtag".
  26. ^ "Instagram hashtag".
  27. ^ "The Rise of The Synths an interview with Ivan Castell". Paradise Arcade Podcast.
  28. ^ Bernal, Fernando (11 December 2019). "Crítica de 'The Rise of the Synths'". Cinemanía (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  29. ^ "Rise Of The Synths". Forever Synth. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  30. ^ Loser, Jorge (14 December 2019). "'La rebelión de los sintes': interesante documental que apunta a John Carpenter como génesis del movimiento musical de la década". Espinof (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  31. ^ Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (13 March 2020). "The Rise of the Synths review – the world's most nostalgic music scene". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  32. ^ Records, Lakeshore. "The Rise Of The Synths (Collectors Edition) 'Trans Purple' Vinyl - VA". Lakeshore Records. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  33. ^ "The Rise Of The Synths (Official Companion Album), by The Rise Of The Synths". The Rise Of The Synths. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  34. ^ "Com Truise, GUNSHIP, Chrome Canyon: 'The Rise of the Synths' EP 2 Is Pure Gold". Vehlinggo. 8 June 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  35. ^ "Soundtrack Review: The Rise Of The Synths".
  36. ^ "Soundtrack review: The rise of the synths EP 1(2017) – Soundtrack dreams". Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  37. ^ "THE RISE OF THE SYNTHS The Official Companion Album". THE ELECTRICITY CLUB. 16 December 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2019.

External linksEdit