Film: Mandala Beats (2016)

May 19, 2017 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer:  n/a

Extras: n/a

Label:  n/a

Region: n/a

Released:  n/a

Genre:  Documentary / World Music

Synopsis: Documentary on gifted Israeli bassist Yossi Fine, and his trip to the Rajasthan International Folk Festival in India.

Special Features:  n/a




Montreal-based photographer Rebekah Reiko makes her directorial debut with this brisk 44 min. documentary on Israel’s Yossi Fine, branded by some as ‘the Jimi Hendrix of the bass guitar.’ Half Lithuanian and Caribbean, Fine soon discovered Indian roots on his mother’s side, igniting a curiosity to explore a new cultural facet of his family’s DNA,  ultimately taking him to a music festival in India where he was invited to perform at the Rajasthan International Folk Festival in the mountainous region of Jodhpur.

Reiko manages to balance a lot of information on her subject – Fine’s career, family background, musical influences – and integrate two additional musicians with whom Fine performs in Jodhpur: Israeli musicians Shye Ben Tzur, and Gil Ron Shama.

Structurally, the doc initially introduces us to Fine and his family in Tel Aviv, just as he’s poised to head to India, and follows his arrival and the rehearsal sessions in which he learns aspects of Indian music, and records a song which the multi-ethnic group perform to a riverside audience.

Interpolated throughout the narrative are snapshots and short montages of Fine’s performing at prior venues, building up his reputation as a musician hungry to explore and challenge himself, having played rock, reggae, fusion, and now forming a new fusion band that exploits his maturity as an artist and recent exposure Indian culture.

The doc’s pluses are huge: beautiful location cinematography, a dynamic editing style that  cleverly compacts information culled from a massive trove of footage, plus recurring on-camera interviews with Fine at home and in a studio where he, and Ben Tzur, and Shama reflect on each other, the importance of music in their lives, and it’s value in smashing down barriers.

A cynic would brand some of their statements as naïve, but the film’s positive message is undeniable: their diverse backgrounds and collective performing prove racial divisions, religious friction, and physical walls can be transcended by art. As Shama opines in a reflective segment, music may be the one thing humanity hasn’t screwed up, being an art form that’s lasted thousands of years and brought people together.

Reiko’s editing is extremely sharp and clever in creating a flow of visual and aural information, but by compacting Fine’s performances into impressions of his artistry,  you get conundrums like the End Credits which play over Fine rehearing with his new band – a musical moment that should’ve been allowed to stand and breathe on its own, instead of closing the film in an abbreviated form. Whether a combination of music rights and an eye for a TV airing or just the latter, the inevitable compromise at 44 mins. is us being denied Fine performing a full piece, if not half of several pieces in what’s an otherwise solid portrait of a curious, driven, benevolent musical soul.

Manada Beats had its World Premiere at the 2017 Toronto Jewish Film Festival, and coming soon are extracts from the director and star Q&A that bookended its screening at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema on May 14, 2017.



© 2017 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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