Documentaries have always been big business for film festivals and independent movie theaters, but rarely have they had such a presence on DVD lately as they have from documramafilms. In the past couple months alone they’ve pounded out several award winning documentaries that had previously only been seen by a few in local theaters and, very rarely, on television/PBS airings. Now, docuramafilms is bringing to DVD the Béla Fleck documentary Throw Down Your Heart, which has already accumulated several awards and nominations over various film festivals. Now those unable to see the film in its limited theatrical runs can now witness the inspiring documentary for themselves.
“Throw Down Your Heart” follows American banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck on his journey to Africa to explore the little known African roots of the banjo and record an album. Béla’s boundary-breaking musical adventure takes him to Uganda, Tanzania, The Gambia, and Mali, and provides a glimpse of the beauty and complexity of Africa. Using his banjo, Béla transcends barriers of language and culture, finding common ground and forging connections with musicians from very different backgrounds.
Occasionally I let out strings of questionable words when I receive certain DVDs to review. Having not heard of Fleck or this documentary, such a string emitted from my mouth that would have no doubt been perceived as offensive by some. But that’s to be expected from time to time and with a title like the one this documentary has, can you really blame me? Still, I’ve long since learned not to judge a book (or DVD, in this case) by its cover and even after reading the somewhat strange sounding synopsis, I dove into it.
I have to say that I’ve never heard of such a strange idea for a mash-up as an American banjo “virtuoso” playing in Africa. But I was really taken aback by how much this film had to offer. It was more than about the music that Fleck played with the multitude of African musicians, as it ended up showing just how universal the sound of music really is. Fleck didn’t speak any of the language so while he was at a loss for communicating with words to the other musicians, he was able to speak to them fluently through music.
It may sound a bit hokey and cheesy to say that this film is about communication through music, how beautiful and simple a medium it is and how uplifting this documentary was but…man, it really was all of those things. I was really impressed by not only how real the whole situations that Fleck was in, but also how evident it was that he was really not in his element at all in terms of culture and language, but once the music started the divide between him and the African musicians just dissipated.
I was completely unaware as to who Fleck was prior to this documentary, but I have to say he seems like a genuinely great guy. Just how humble he is throughout the entire documentary is simply outstanding; as much as people praise him throughout, he’s never anything less than gracious. Fleck himself is almost as inspiring s the documentary, as so often we’re shown how ugly the world is but this piece is a great bright beckon of light.
Speaking of light, the cinematography in this film is brilliant. Africa has always been an amazing visual landscape and the travels that Fleck and director Sascha Paladino go through is nothing short of brilliant. A truly amazing documentary from beginning to end and one I Highly Recommend.
docuramafilms brings Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart to DVD in a standard amaray DVD case. Nothing overly special about the presentation of the documentary here—no fancy exterior cardboard slipcase (not that it needs one) and nothing to really pop out at you, although the blood red cover art is eye catching in its own way. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and the documentary style lends itself well in the basic transfer, with solid visuals throughout (speckled with grain here and there) and a strong audio track (which is important in a music based documentary) to back it all up.
Audio Commentary with Bela Fleck and Director Sascha Paladino
Deleted Scenes and Musical Performances
The commentary is an incredibly welcome piece, especially with both of the men responsible for this film on tap for the duration of the film. There’s plenty of additional insight and input on not only the documentary itself but the work that went into it as well. In addition the extra scenes and performances are incredibly nice as well, as even at an hour and thirty-seven minutes long, I wasn’t ready to leave the “world” that the documentary transported you to.
Overall a Recommended release.
Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart arrives on DVD on November 3rd.