Once a month, the Utah Film Center and the Grand County Public Library team up to show a free film at Star Hall. This month’s film, “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble,” was selected for its message of unity and its joyful celebration of ethnic differences, according to Grand County Public Library Assistant Jessie Magleby.
The film will screen at Star Hall, 159 E. Center St., on Thursday, April 20, at 7 p.m.
Like most collaborative works of art, the documentary began as an idea. According to world-famous cellist and songwriter Yo-Yo Ma, the prompt was “What might happen when strangers meet?”
Yo-Yo Ma was not referring to everyday strangers, but strangers from across the world who speak the language of music. In 2000, Yo-Yo Ma and his crew began seeking out an extraordinary and diverse group of musicians.
“We scoured from Venice to Istanbul, Central Asia, China and Mongolia looking for incredible talent,” Yo-Yo Ma said.
The Silk Road Ensemble was named after the ancient trade route that links Asia, Africa and Europe. “The Music of Strangers” captures the ensemble’s ever-changing lineup of performers, including more than 50 instrumentalists, vocalists, composers, arrangers, visual artists and storytellers. According to the film’s website, the documentary follows the ensemble as it gathers in locations across the world, exploring the ways art can both preserve traditions and shape cultural evolution.
“I just thought it would be a really beautiful film to add to our series – especially (during) these divisive times,” Magleby said. “I think it’s really important to keep making art, to keep making music together.”
“The Music of Strangers” is the most recent film from the makers of the Oscar-winning documentary “20 Feet from Stardom” and the critically acclaimed “Best of Enemies.”
Director Morgan Neville and producer Caitrin Rogers focus on the journeys of a small group of Silk Road Ensemble mainstays from across the globe to create an intensely personal chronicle of passion, talent and sacrifice, according to the film’s website.
“Through these moving individual stories, the filmmakers paint a vivid portrait of a bold musical experiment and a global search for the ties that bind,” it reads.
The trailer, which can be found on YouTube or on the film’s website at www.themusicofstrangers.film, teases any music lover or humanitarian with passionate insights from several members of the Silk Road Ensemble.
“The clearest reason for music, for culture, is it gives us meaning,” Yo-Yo Ma says in the film. “I’m always trying to figure out how I fit in the world, which I think is something that I share with seven billion other people.”
Yo-Yo Ma was born in 1955 in Paris. His mother was a singer and his father was a composer and music teacher. He started taking piano lessons with his father when he was three years old, sometimes waking up as early as 4 or 5 a.m. to practice. He picked up the cello at the young age of four. Three years later, Ma’s family moved to New York City, and he was well on his way to becoming one of the most famous classically trained musicians in the world.
Another “mainstay” featured in the film is composer Osvaldo Golijov, who grew up in an Eastern European Jewish household in La Plata, Argentina. Golijov was also born to a piano teacher parent, as well as a physician father. Golijov was raised with classical chamber music, Jewish liturgical and klezmer music, and new tango of Astor Piazzolla. He moved to Israel in 1983, and the United States in 1986, continuing to diversify his musical studies until joining with the Silk Road Ensemble.
Golijov is one of several passionate voices in the film that promotes hope for the world over.
“By trying to kill the human spirit, the answer of the human spirit is to revenge with beauty,” he says in the film.
Documentary featuring Yo-Yo Ma comes to Star Hall on April 20
“I just thought it would be a really beautiful film to add to our series – especially (during) these divisive times.”
When: Thursday, April 20, at 7 p.m.
Where: Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.
For more information, go to: www.utahfilmcenter.org/events/category/moab/upcoming/.