26 July 2008

a thoughtful, masterful meld of music and drama
Vengo DVD cover
90 minutes / Spanish with English subtitles
written and directed by Tony Gatlif

The insert accompanying the DVD release of Tony Gatlif’s amazing film Vengo gives a succinct but very informative background on the forces that combined to create the musical form called flamenco – a ‘perfect storm’ of Christian, Hebrew, Muslim and, later, Gitano cultures came together and something completely new and wonderful was born. It’s a process that continues to this day, blending musical flavorings from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and as far away as India into a tasty stew that is unequaled in its ability to express the joys, pain, passion, sorrow and loss that boil within everyone, yearning to freely express themselves, to share with others the emotions that live within the human heart and soul. Director Tony Gatlif has Gitano blood flowing in his veins – his love of his heritage, his respect for Roma history and culture, and his knowledge of the elements that have formed it (and continue to form it, for it is like an extensive living organism) have manifested in his art, resulting in some incredible filmmaking, his first work appearing as early as 1975. Especially notable among his other films are Latcho drom (1993), Gadjo dilo (1998), Swing (2002), Exils (2004) and Transylvania (2006) – Roma culture and music play huge roles in all of them.
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opens, appropriately enough, with a scene in which the viewer sees both musicians and listeners arriving by boat at a palatial residence perched high on a rock above the water. A guitarist (the great Tomatito, one of Spain’s finest) and violinist begin to play with amazing virtuosity, feeding off each other as if they were of one mind – after a few minutes, as if in response, a group of Arabo-Andalusian players take up their instruments. To the accompaniment of an oud, a violin, a flute, percussion and a chorus of responsive vocals, Sheikh Ahmad Al Tuni begins to sing, clinking on a glass for additional percussion, an ecstatic expression on his face. Soon the Gitano players come back in, with the whole picture underscoring the deep relationships between the cultures and musical forms that gave birth to flamenco.
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Gatlif’s camera cuts from the concert to a shot of the whitewashed walls of a church and its attached gallery of crypts, stark against a blue sky filled with rolling grey clouds – the dramatic element of the film comes into play. Caco (pictures above, wonderfully played by Antonio Canales, known in Spain as a fine dancer), the head of a Gitano clan, stands before the tomb of a young woman who is revealed to be his daughter Pepa – his grief is deep and clear, and its effects on him and those around him will become even clearer as the film progresses. Leaving the churchyard, Caco and his entourage – family members and bodyguards – arrive at their village to find graffiti scrawled across the wall : ‘Sandro – you will be avenged’, the first allusion to the bad blood that exists between Caco’s family and a rival clan. He immediately fears for the safety of his nephew, Diego (Orestes Villasan Rodriguez, in an absolutely stunning performance), racing up a hill to assure himself that the young man is safe.
The ‘business’ of Caco’s family – beyond his part-ownership of a Seville bar – is never detailed, but large bundles of cash are handled, instructions (both verbal and written, at times cryptic) are given and carried out at his bidding – there’s never any implication that anything illegal or illicit is going on, but its possibility is there. An associate talks with Caco, communicating to him that he has a potential buyer for Caco’s share of the bar – when asked the identity of the potential purchaser, he’s told that the man wants to remain anonymous. This brings a comment from Caco referring to the Caravacas family – ‘that scumbag family’, he spits – further identifying his family’s adversary, and the probably source of the threatening graffiti.
Sheltering and nourishing his nephew Diego and dealing with his own massive grief over the death of his daughter Pepa are the controlling forces in Caco’s life – even as he works to keep the reins of their businesses tightly in hand. He takes Diego to Seville – a trip involving both business and pleasure – and introduces him to an apparent prostitute, a young woman he knows called La Catalana, with whom he has prearranged a liaison with the young man. Making an excuse of having to run an errand, he leaves the two of them alone together in an empty bar – later, after his return, as he and Diego walk down the darkened street together, he attempts to pry information from the boy about what happened between him and the woman. Diego is touchingly, shyly reticent, finally expressing, in response to Caco’s macho ‘So how was it…?’ with a comment that illustrates the depth of his own thought, understanding and wisdom concerning such matters, ‘It was good – but it wasn’t love’ – it’s inspiring to see that he knows and recognizes the difference at his young age.

Later, the two of them meet up with other family members, friends and associates for a performance arranged and financed by Caco featuring one of Diego’s favorite singers, La Caita, at a restaurant. This amazing singer was also featured in Gatlif’s film Latcho drom (click here for a clip from that film featuring her) – the sheer power and passion with which she throws herself into her cante is breathtaking. She sings, ‘In the street of winds, your body and mine came together’ – this is the flame of the unfettered and untamed voice of pure emotion. Accompanied only by a guitar or two, some improvised percussion and palmas from around the table, she very nearly sets the screen on fire. Across the restaurant, a table filled with a couple of dozen soldiers listens – one of them strolls over to be closer to the music, with Alejandro (Caco’s cousin, one of his bodyguards and his closest confidant, played with fine subtlety by Antonio Perez Dechent) showing concern that trouble might develop. More of the soldiers make their way over as the music comes to its incredible climax – at the end of La Caita’s song, one of them calls out, ‘¡Viva arte!’, to which Alejandro replies, forcefully and with due pride, ‘¡Viva flamenco…flamenco puro!’ This performance by La Caita is a moving, graphic example of ‘flamenco puro’ – the music that the Gitanos create for themselves, to give expression to their souls, as opposed to the flamenco that is performed for tourists, or the watered-down version propagated by so many elements of popular culture media.

Once again the scene shifts, depicting Caco at Pepa’s tomb. The pain in his heart is inexpressible – but conveyed beautifully, and deeply felt. He lights a candle for her and murmurs, ‘Your death burns me…’ as he taps gently on the glass that covers her picture and the marker sealing her crypt. As Alejandro waits with the others outside the churchyard, the wind begins to blow – softly at first, almost unnoticeable – through the leaves and branches of a tree. As it catches his attention, Alejandro walks over to it, then under it, allowing the branches and leaves to surround him. ‘Listen…’, he says to his companions, who join him. Antonio (Bobote, a musician himself) closes his eyes and immerses himself in the sound – he says, ‘This tree’s got duende – sounds like a lament’, and begins to sing softly. Is it an echo or a foreshadowing of loss?

Diego loves flamenco, and he loves to party – he mentions another group to Caco, Las Cigalas de Jerez, and his uncle promises to get them for their next party. It begins in the afternoon, eats up the night as if with a fork and knife, and continues on into the next morning. Caco’s sorrow cannot be subdued by the music and revelry – it’s as visible in his eyes and on his face as an old scar. He consumes glass after glass of wine, finally passing out, helped by a couple of his aged aunts to a place where he can give in to his alcohol- and grief-induced slumber. As he slips into unconsciousness, he mutters his lost daughter’s name, ‘Pepa…’ and fades into the oblivion of sleep. At one point, in the light of morning, Diego looks in on him, showing that the love of family is more than a one-way street.
Caco is seen talking with a couple of members of the Caravacas family, revealing the source of the bad blood between the two clans – Caco’s brother Mario killed a member of their family, and they are grimly determined that ‘someone has to pay’ for the death. The celebration around the christening of their dead brother’s daughter, is seen by Caco as a chance for rapprochement – in the company of his bodyguards and family, he brings Diego to the gathering as a sign of good will, insisting that they have not come to insult the family of the dead man, but that he wants to talk, in order to heal the rift between them. Music again plays an important role in this scene, in the form of a performance by an absolute legend of cante flamenco, Paquera de Jerez. Caco and the brother of the slain Caravacas man separate themselves from the opposing entourages (who continue to exchange insults), but little is resolved. The tensions that have slowly and inexorably mounted throughout the film continue to do so, ultimately leading to the climax.
Vengo is remarkable for a number of reasons. It’s well-written, creatively and sensitively directed, acted with a great mixture of believability and feeling, with impressive and moving cinematography – add to this the seamlessness with which Gatlif has combined the elements of drama and music, and you have something of very rare quality indeed. I’ve viewed it a number of times now, and I always come away more impressed with it than before. The storyline is intelligent and well-developed, its portrayal of Gitano culture is never patronizing or simplistic, and the musical element is woven so naturally and tightly into the film that the viewer is never left with the feeling of watching a music video (a trap into which far too many films that attempt such a combination find themselves stumbling, despite their best intentions). The DVD release, through Home Vision Entertainment, features a sharp image that doesn’t appear to suffer at all from over-zealous tweaking or image-boosting – and the sound is crystalline, allowing the dialogue, environmental sounds, and the stunning music to be heard unencumbered by any unnatural-sounding effects. There are a couple of nice bonus features as well – interviews with Antonio Canales and Antonio Dechent, and a short film entitled Los Almendros – Plaza Nueva, about contemporary Gitano life, that was shown at European film festivals in conjunction with Vengo.

The DVD is readily available through domestic US sources, for either rental or purchase. I can’t recommend this one highly enough – and I can’t see myself ever tiring of returning to it. The wonderful soundtrack CD is available as well, and is a great introduction to this moving music.

13 July 2008

Agujetas cantaor
DVD cover
directed by Dominique Abel

Manuel Agujetas: scarred genius, a living treasure of cante flamenco.Agujetas 5
It just doesn’t get any more ‘real’ than this man and his music – and this film is an incredible document of them both. Director Dominique Abel has gifted both the film world and the music world something very special indeed here – an audio and visual record of one of the greatest flamenco cantaores ever to dip into this deep well of tradition. As it opens, the viewer sees a man – Agujetas, apparent as he gets closer – slowly walking into view along a dusty country lane, singing. After a moment, it registers that his voice seems to be carrying a good distance – could this be a remote mic? – no, it’s simply the power of a voice wielded by an artist unlike any other, in the present or the past, in this world or an alternate reality. This is Manuel Agujetas. This is cante flamenco, sung in the martinete style (literally, ‘pile driver’). This is – as part of the text on the DVD cover notes – ‘A fierce enemy of modern ways, and a free and original personality that has been mythicized for the good and the bad of the gitano world.
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There are ‘interviews’ (which are mostly unforgettable monologues delivered by Agujetas to the camera), priceless archival footage (the scene, one of the samples below, showing Agujetas’ father, also a respected cantaor, singing, then watching with almost tearful pride as his son sings, is extremely moving) and present-day performances included in this film – and the package comes with a 50-minute CD containing six songs from the soundtrack. Manuel is seen performing in a small venue with the amazing guitarist Moraito – whose deft, unbelievably fast and nimble fingerwork left me torn between watching him or Agujetas (fortunately, the director wisely chose to feature a balance of both)…or the audience. There are people present who are obviously familiar with Agujetas’ style – one man in particular seems to be on the verge of crying tears of joy, he is so moved by the cante. Also in attendance are those who have evidently not been exposed to the explosive, fiery singing of this man – their heads are seen to flinch and jerk at his outbursts…but no one is leaving. This is some of the most compelling, captivating music you’ll ever be likely to hear – nor will you ever forget it.
In the monologues, Agujetas is seen walking around his self-built house and land, showing off the well he says he dug by hand, the vegetables he grows, the iron forge he still works, and the railings and other handiwork from there, of which he is justifiably proud. He speaks on not knowing the year of his birth, boasts of not being able to read or write – he says, ‘A person that knows how to read and write can’t sing flamenco because his pronunciation isn’t right’. He knows hundreds of lyrics by heart, having learned them over the course of his life, without the benefit of any of them being written down on paper. He adds, ‘I get up with a headache because I dream of singing every night.’
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Observers, fans and aficionados comment on his music in different parts of the film – one man says, ‘Agujetas’ singing is rough, like the first sip of whiskey’. Another offers, ‘Agujetas’ singing hurts you. It makes you bleed. It cuts open your flesh like a knife.’ Author and flamenco archivist Fernando Quiñones writes of his unmistakable, completely unique voice, that is it ‘aglow with pain and gitano essence…soaked in acid primitiveness’. This goes hand in hand with one of Agujetas’ descriptions of himself – all of which are to be taken with a grain of salt, of course – as ‘dangerous’. He speaks of his family – a line of singers going back beyond memory, his Japanese wife (seen dancing flamenco in one part of the film), the women he has had, the extended families ‘…I’ve got several families, but they’ve had enough of me’.

One review I read expressed it this way – ‘With a single shout he milks the cow dry. There are singers like Sugar Ray that can hit you fifty times in a flash. But just one punch from Agujetas, and you're going down.’ If that doesn’t sound ‘dangerous’, validating the cantaor’s opinion of himself, I don’t know what does. Guitarist Moraito speaks of working with Agujetas as one of the most positive experiences of his life, challenging, unpredictable and satisfying – ‘He’s constantly surprising you with new and undeveloped ideas. Because the singing of Agujetas is wild and untamed in its natural state.’

Just one look at the chiseled face on the cover of the DVD will give a clue to the personality that lives behind it. This music – all the more incredible that it is produced by a human voice sometimes accompanied by a guitar – is absolutely white-hot with power and emotion, yet capable of moments of tenderness that could wring tears from a stone. It must be heard and seen to be believed – and even then, I’m certain that the experience of being in the room with this man singing his heart out would be the ultimate immersion in the magma-like power of his music.

I have a region 2 edition of this film, ordered from France – I have yet to find a source for a region 1 copy (for use in most North American systems). If I discover one out there somewhere, I’ll add it to this post as an edit. In the meantime, check out some scenes from the film from YouTube (naturally, these are lower quality than the DVD itself, but for now…)
A short clip from Agujetas cantaor...
Agujetas el Viejo (Manuel's father), as seen in the film...

from Spanish TV, I'm guessing 15 years or so ago...with an ageless face like his, it's hard to tell...
and finally, from Carlos Saura's great film Flamenco, singing a martinete...

06 July 2008

Step across the border
Middle of the moment
three visionary documentaries by
Nicolas Humbert & Werner Penzel
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Werner Penzel & Nicolas Humbert
In the three documentary features described below, Nicolas Humbert and his co-director Wener Penzel have approached the medium in a way that allows the subjects to speak for themselves. There are no voice-overs, no ‘narrators’ – on occasion speech is addressed to the filmmakers / audience by those depicted in the films, and sometimes the actual voice of the filmmaker is heard, in conversation with the subject – but the overriding impression is the sensation of being a spectator, a witness to the lives and creativity of some extraordinary people. The method prevents these films from becoming dry and over-intellectualized exercises and allows the viewer to become a part of the environment and experience played out before the eyes on celluloid.

These three films are all available on DVD under the auspices of the wonderful German label Winter & Winter – their release should go a long way in making the company known as much for its support of cinematic efforts as the great jazz and classical music which makes up the bulk of its catalogue.

Wolfsgrub : portrait of my motherWOLFSGRUB DVD cover
directed by Nicolas Humbert
1985, 64min

Wolfsgrub, c.1934

This film’s subtitle belies the depth and intimacy with which Humbert addresses his subject. Wolfsgrub is the name of the hamlet in Germany where his mother, daughter of the writer Max Mohr, grew up and spent all of her life. Filmed in simple black and white, filled with striking yet simple images of the surrounding countryside, the house and the subject, it’s an extremely effective immersion into the life and history of an inspiringly independent, intelligent and free-thinking woman. Eva, Humbert’s mother, is seen asleep, waking up, washing and combing her hair, going about her daily chores – a practical view of her life which is woven delicately and naturally into her conversation (which is mostly a monologue of remembrance) with her son, which makes up the bulk of the film. She candidly speaks of her life at Wolfsgrub from the time she was a child to the present, talking openly about her father and mother, their differing personalities and life-requirements, his self-imposed exile to China during WWII, and about growing up during the time of Nazism in Germany.
Eva Humbert-Mohr's parents, Kathe and Max Mohr, c. 1934

Eva Mohr, c. 1934
Eva relates that her mother was pretty successful in shielding her from the harsh realities of that dark time – the incidents that opened her eyes and mind to the nature of those in charge of the government at the time seem small and ordinary taken out of context, but were both opportune and imperative in altering the course of the human spirit. More than a feeling of ‘collective guilt’, she speaks of a sense of ‘collective shame’ at what the Nazis wrought on humanity – it caused the eyes of her conscience to open wide, and brought with it a different political view…but in her case, more one of a Gandhi-like ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’ rather than outright political activism. The sheer openness and honesty with which she speaks of her life, world events, her family, the joys and mistakes she has experienced, her philosophical lack of personal regrets, all make her an unforgettable and admirable human being.

Humbert’s images are simple ones – opening sequences depict his journey home, followed by shots of the surrounding area’s idyllic setting. The viewer is left with the feeling that the house – almost as much as his mother – is a living, breathing character. It has witnessed much in its history, and is an inseparable link to the lives of all who have dwelled within or simply passed through its doors. The textures of its walls and floors and furnishings are as detailed and defining as the lines on a human’s face and hands – there are stories and lessons to be found there, if one will only take the time to look and listen. The film is personal in a way that few documentaries attempt or accomplish – it’s a gentle but complete immersion into the life and history of this remarkable woman, told with grace, easy and beauty. Humbert’s concept and execution, the knowledge, love and respect with which he treats his subject, and the compelling but unobtrusive soundtrack by Fred Frith all combine to make this an unforgettable, enriching experience.
Wolfsgrub was awarded the Public Prize at Filmfest München, 1986
Step across the border
STEP DVD cover
directed by Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel
1990, 84min (+ 30min of extra material)

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Possibly as a result of working with Fred Frith on the 1985 film Wolfsgrub, Nicholas Humbert and co-director Werner Penzel turned their lens on the renowned avant-garde / improvisational musician as the subject of Step across the border, described as ‘a ninety minute celluloid improvisation’. As in that earlier film, there is no real ‘narration’ – Frith is shown in multiple settings relaxing, rehearsing, performing before rapt audiences, and in conversation (mostly one-way) with the camera crew. Shot over the course of four years (1987-90) in several countries (Japan, Germany, France, Italy, England, the US and Switzerland), it’s an extremely interesting, informative and involving portrait of the musician / composer, his fans and cohorts, and the music itself. Far from being a stuffy intellectual type (although his intelligence cannot be disputed by any means), Fred is shown to be outgoing and engaging, open-minded, with a free spirit – and certainly not reticent when it comes to sharing a laugh with others. One of the brightest moments of the film – at least to me – was the scene, perhaps shot in Fred’s home or that of a friend, where he reproduces the themes from several of his many musical compositions using only his mouth and a bit of ‘body percussion’. It shows that while he’s aware of his own talents and creativity, he doesn’t take himself so seriously as to be egotistical and unnecessarily elevated.
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Several sequences in the film depict motion and travel – Fred tours quite a bit, playing to appreciative audiences all over the world, so this is an understandable and integral part of the picture the filmmakers paint. This is not to say that the subjects – Fred and the music – are shown as being isolated from the world in which they, and we, exist. All of the locales are fully-formed, visually, with the environment (both good and bad) clearly shown. Performing and composing in diverse areas of music, from tightly composed (including some with a string quartet) to totally improvised, he’s shown rehearsing with a group performing a tune from his days with Massacre; with the late Tom Cora, preparing for a gig at The Kitchen in New York City; playing casually outdoors with Iva Bittová and others; and in various concert settings including appearing solo in Osaka. Other well-known musicians – Arto Lindsay, Charles Hayward, John Zorn, Tim Hodgkinson and others appear in various sequences, both in the film and in the extra material included on the DVD.
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Both the video and sound quality are excellent – combined with the sensitive choice of material, method and editing of the filmmakers, the viewer will no doubt come away from Step across the border with a greater understanding of not only the music of Fred Frith, but his character, temperament and philosophy…and of the experimental / improvisational music scene as well. This is a great opportunity for fans of Fred’s music to experience him creating and performing it – and an opportunity for those who have never dipped into this rich well to savor something completely different from the fare shoveled out by commercial radio and other outlets.

Step across the border is the recipient of the Golden Gate Award, the European Film Award, and the Grand Prix International.

Middle of the moment
directed by Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel
1995, 76min (+ 42min of extra material)

From the notes on the DVD cover, excerpted from the Winter & Winter website, by Miriam van Leer : The essence of any experience, any moment, is to be found where people are in most intense contact with the place they occupy. And, paradoxically, it is through a nomadic existence that one occupies a space the most intensely. Whether the nature of this nomadism is largely physical…or rather abstract…is not important. In my opinion, the greatest achievement that filmmakers Humbert and Penzel have achieved – at least in these three films – is Middle of the moment. Two groups of people, along with one individual, have been chosen to represent the subject matter at hand – the performers and workers that form the heart and soul of the European ensemble Cirque O; the wandering Touareg tribes Kel Iforas and Kel Wdegui of the forbidding Ténéré region of the south Sahara; and the great American expatriate and seclusionist poet Robert Lax.
The images are shot in both close-up and distant formats – but the feeling the viewer is given is one of intimacy. The film opens with a shot at night of sparks from a fire blowing in the wind, accompanied by images of a road in the dark, with briefly lit road signs passing by. Then two young faces appear, lit by the fire – one is tending the flame, blowing on it to get it started, as if imbuing it with life by giving it his breath. Scenes shift from time to time, with images of desert nomad life being contrasted and compared with those of life in a traveling European circus – in a brief interlude, Robert Lax is shown reading one of his short works. While it would seem at first glance that these lifestyles have little in common other than constant traveling and isolation (imposed or by choice) from the greater body of human society, similarities and shared traits soon become visible and otherwise evident.
Both the desert nomads and the circus performers are shown erecting and dismantling tents – shelter for one, workplace for the other. I readily saw a theme of circles developing in this film – perhaps intended overtly or not, I sensed it as a visual / emotional reference to the ‘connectivity’ expressed in the quote above – these are people who are more in touch with the earth than people who dwell in (and are almost completely depended to) cities and other ‘permanent’ forms of residence can hope to completely understand or feel. They move across the skin of the world, in constant and intense contact with it – everything they do, with few exceptions, directly relates to their ability to survive and even thrive in the environment they inhabit. There are circles formed by bodies around a fire; a bowl containing a yoghurt made from goat’s milk, from which hands dip from all sides; an improvised well, dug into the sands by hand; the performance area of rings inside the circus tent, as well as the circles formed by the tents themselves, both of the circus and the nomads; the circular nature of life and time itself, expressed in the poem read by Robert Lax :
One moment passes –
another comes on.
How was, was –
how is, is –
how will be, will be.
Is was,
was is,
was wasn’t,
wasn’t was,
is isn’t,
isn’t is,
won’t will be,
will be won’t.
The contradictions that appear on the surface of the seemingly simple series of thoughts that make up this poem are so interconnected that they become one – like a circle. One of the most striking images in the film is of a female circus performer spinning at angles in a large double-wheel, controlling her movements and direction and speed by subtle body movements – it’s a compelling picture of grace and beauty, drawing the eyes as a magnet draws iron. Similarly moving is the birth of a baby camel, the mother being assisted gently by some of the tribal members – we later see the young animal encouraged by a tribesman to rise up and take its first steps, watched over with visible love by the new mother.
There is little conversation or dialogue in the film that is ‘explanatory’ – the exceptions are conversations between people, never by the filmmakers themselves. One of the desert nomads relates a dream to a woman, perhaps his wife, as they sit on the sand: And then I shout – every time they come and pursue me in my dream, I shout. Sometimes I sleep under a tree and can hear the jackal…in my dream he comes to eat the goats, then I shout – he clears off. And sometimes I dream that something grabs me and pulls me into the sky… An image appears of a young boy sitting before a fire at night, with the moon a tiny circle over his shoulder – his face is at first glance inscrutable, but there is a world to be seen in his eyes. The scene changes to that of one of the circus performers applying his makeup in a mirror – the paint with which he colors his face makes a fierce design, but, again, there is deep humanity in his eyes.
Music plays a large role in the lives of both the Europeans and the Touaregs – a plaintive Roma melody is played on the violin by a woman in one of the caravans that will go right to your heart of hearts; a man wanders along a dockside, playing an accordion; a group of desert-dwelling women chant and sing in the night in a call-and-response style, accompanying themselves on drums; the band in the circus plays along with the performers, musically coloring the emotions they create in the onlookers; and the music is present in its absence in a scene in the desert campsite, showing another circle, made of footprints, left from the previous evening’s dancing and revelry.

This film is pure artistry, assembled with great skill and creativity by filmmakers to express ideas and emotions connected with a style of life that is unchained from the day-to-day treadmill that most of us experience. It is a breathtaking and moving picture of the juncture of humanity touching the earth – the footprints in the sand, the impression of tents removed, the shadow painted by a spinning metal hoop in a circus spotlight, slowly but inexorably coming to a horizontal stillness. All of these images will vanish – the footprints will be erased by the desert wind; the rains will wash away the marks in the ground made by the circus tents; the shadow and the hoop that made it will disappear when the lights are cut and the equipment is packed away.

The humanity – and the less-visible but more longer-lasting touches it makes with the earth, will remain.

Middle of the moment has received many film awards, including the Prix La Sarraz for innovative cinema, Switzerland, 1995; the Prix du Public, Filmfestival Marseille, France, 1995; the Grand Prix - Best Documentary, Filmfestival Florence, Italy 1995; and the Hessischer Filmpreis - Best Documentary, Germany , 1995. It has been screened at film festivals around the world.

I consider all of these to be essential elements of my film collection, and of my life experience in general. You’re extremely unlikely to be fortunate enough to see any of them in a theatre (I’d love to do so, but I doubt I’ll ever have the opportunity) – but they’re available at reasonable prices on DVD (see the Allegro link below) – and the packaging by Winter & Winter is distinctive, aesthetic and informative, as is the case with all of their musical releases. Heck, Step across the border and Middle of the moment are even available through Netflix, and you might well be able to locate them for rental locally, depending on the presence of an outlet that features hard-to-find items. However you find them, I can’t recommend them highly enough – each one of them makes for incredibly enriching and rewarding viewing.
Allegro Music – affordable domestic source for mail-ordering the DVDs