DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

THE MUSIC OF STRANGERS: YO-YO MA & THE SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE (director: Morgan Neville; cinematographer: Graham Willoughby; editors: Jason Zeldes, Helen Kearns; music: The Silk Road Ensemble; cast:  Yo-Yo Ma, Wu Man, Kinan Azmeh, Kayhan Kalhor, Cristina Pato; Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Caitrin Rogers; The Orchard; 2015)

"Upbeat first-rate musical documentary that proclaims it is through music that the world might best be able to connect in a peaceful way."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz share

Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Morgan Neville ("20 Feet from Stardom"/"Best of Enemies") adeptly directs this upbeat first-rate musical documentary that proclaims it is through music that the world might best be able to connect in a peaceful way. The American internationally renown cellist Yo-Yo Ma, of Chinese heritage, founded a collective of diverse international musicians called the Silk Road Ensemble, and from 2000 on they have been to such places as Tanglewood, Tehran, Beijing, Damascus, Istanbul, a refugee camp in Lebanon, and to Galicia in Spain. Their purpose was vague at first, but Ma hoped for a meeting of minds to their traditions and even to make new music. Somehow it worked, though many critics initially wrongly thought the music wasn't pure. But now most agree this unlikely project helped shape a cultural evolution and inspired with hope many people all over the world.

Neville gives us scenes with personal narratives and the music played by some of the group's great talents assembled, from the 50 musicians, that include such masters as
the Chinese pipa master Wu Man, Damascus-born clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, Iranian-born kamancheh player Kayhan Kalhor, and Galacian bagpiper Cristina Pato. Yo-Yo  is seen as a child prodigy at age 7, who was introduced on television by Leonard Bernstein.

The joyous music becomes the message, and tells us more than the musicians can possibly say what it all means.

REVIEWED ON 12/2/2016       GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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