The Music of Strangers(2015)
The filmmaker behind the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom captures a globe-spanning experiment started by cellist Yo-Yo Ma where a diverse range of cultures put their musical sensibilities together to make something new.
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BY Liam Maguren Flicks Writer
After the marathon of movie misery I’ve experienced at NZIFF and a post-Brexit newsfeed that can’t stop talking about countries that want to stay divided, I needed this film to remind me of the beauty that can bloom when cultures collaborate. Simple? Yes. Fluffy? Perhaps. But the musicians’ philosophies are clear, their motivation undeniable, and the music they create is – purely – rousing. The perfect companion piece to Poi E: The Story of Our Song.
[Mini-Review From The 2016 NZIFF]
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The Music of Strangers
BY cinemusefilm superstar
Yo-Yo Ma was a child prodigy and has always been a cello superstar without ever actually deciding to be a musician. After almost half a century of immersion in a world of fame and musical accomplishment, Yo-Yo came to question who he was and what music meant. He reasoned that the answer lay beyond his existing cultural reach so he gathered outstanding musicians from different backgrounds to fuse musical styles and traditions in new harmonic synergies. In exploring his journey, the film enters diverse musical cultures through the eyes and words of different musicians, many having experienced homeland tragedy. A variety of unique traditional instruments are heard in both their countries of origin and in the melting pot of the Silk Road Ensemble with musical styles borrowed from genres as diverse as hard rock, folk, hip-hop, jazz and classical. The cinematography is brilliant and viscerally engaging. One of the more memorable scenes is a hip-hop ballet dancer in blue jeans and sneakers imitating an awakening swan with movement so fluid you'd swear he was skating on ice to the hauntingly beautiful sounds of Yo-Yo's cello.
Unscripted narration by many voices provides a kind of freeform improvisation that harmonises with the joyful highs and mournful lows of exotic music. But words only add another layer of narrative to the images and sounds that are this film's real voice. Filmed over four years and across eight countries, the Ensemble has progressed from experimentation to a semi-permanent consortium of 50 performers that has produced nine albums, won 16 Grammy awards and has been heard by millions across the globe. The film could have simply glorified Yo-Yo but it aims for higher ground. It's about the role of music in self-discovery and its power to create meaning, incite emotion, and bridge cultural divides. It is a film that will leave you elated.Hide