Sunday, June 17, 2007

Nomadak Tx screened at AFI Silverdocs as music documentary award winner

Nomadic Tx (“Nomadak Tx” 2007, Barton Films, dir. Raul de la Fuente, 85 min, NR but sug, PG, widescreen HD digital video, transferred to 35 mm, Spain/Euskadi) (website) was screened at AFI Silverdocs as the music documentary award winner. The movie has an interesting paradigm: two Basque men, master musicians of the Basque percussion instrument called the txalaparta (constructed of carefully cut and cured lumber pieces), travel the world, looking for nomadic peoples and introducing their instrument, using a “rough science” approach to make their instruments for local peoples out of local materials. They visit India (around Mumbai), then Lapland (from Norway through Sweden and Finland to Russia), then north Africa (unspecified countries in the original French West Africa, perhaps Mali), and Mongolia, leading again into Russian Siberia. In cold climates, they make their musical instruments out of ice.

At the screening, the two men (Pablo Iraburu and Oreka Tx) gave a brief concert on the instruments.

The on location photography, in nearly full wide screen (it looked like a 2.0 to 1 aspect) is breathtaking, with remote areas of the world never seen before in a commercial film. Particularly effective were the subtle colors in the scenes with late autumn frost and snow in the northern areas, as were the African desert areas, with a kind of “Lawrence of Arabia” look.

There is, of course, a political context. The Basque people have been “fighting” for autonomy, although the ETA has apparently calmed down in recent years. The movie supports the need of other indigenous peoples around the world to be free.

I visited Bilbao and San Sebastian-Donesta in April 2001. The cities were very quiet, and my hotel (the Navaroo) on the Nervion river was a few blocks from the ETA, and I visited the Guggenheim museum. There is much written about the mystery of the origins of the Basque peoples and their genetic markers, but physically they are essentially indistinguishable from other people in Spain or in Europe in general (they may be taller than average).

An early scene showed the mountainous countryside (looking like the California coast mountains) near Bilbao, but the city itself is never shown. I think it should be.

One picture here shows the txalaparta.

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