Home Movies/Out on Digital: Aug. 24, 2017
Recent Blu-ray and DVD releases include the 2002 film Whale Rider set in New Zealand amidst the native Maori; Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus, Robert Mugge’s documentary of a 1986 concert by the jazz saxophonist; Roaring Abyss, Quino Piñero’s documentary of the music of Ethiopia; and Facing Darkness, a documentary about the 2014 Ebola epidemic in Liberia.
Film takes us to places we could never see and into lives we would never encounter. Niki Caro’s wondrous 2002 film Whale Rider does all that and more. Set in New Zealand amid the native Maori, Whale Rider concerns tradition bending to changing times as a young girl endeavors to be trained in her people’s boys-only warrior culture. Not merely a story of girl empowerment, Whale Rider is an enchanting tale where myth becomes reality.
Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus
Jazz great Sonny Rollins has remarkable sustain as a saxophonist—he’s like the pearl diver who seldom needs to surface for air. The 1986 concert in director Robert Mugge’s documentary is driven by powerful rhythms but led by his dynamic solos. He plays in a personal tone with a mindful ability to transmute melody into new shapes. In interviews, Rollins speaks of his music as a meditative discipline requiring active imagination and intense focus.
According to Quino Piñero’s documentary, the 90 million people of Ethiopia sing in 80 different languages. While it’s impossible to fully survey such diversity in an 87-minute film, Roaring Abyss uncovers seldom seen places where music remains rooted to ancient traditions. Voices rhythmically braid with percussion and curious string instruments in songs of joy and group solidarity. And yet, nearby, a man plays on a wooden flute to entertain himself and his cattle.
Ebola had never been seen in Liberia until 2014 and it moved with frightening speed against an unprepared population. Facing Darkness is a documentary about Christian “medical missionaries,” in Liberia to repair the damage of civil war, suddenly confronted with a new crisis. A virus whose flu-like symptoms lead to hemorrhaging and death, Ebola has no cure. Facing Darkness shows the struggle to provide comfort and alert Liberians that human touch had become deadly.