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Isaac Stern's cultural tour of China is seen, with the master violinist performing and mentoring young Chinese musicians. He visits rehearsals of the Peking Opera, meeting with their musicians who use traditional Chinese instruments, and also visits a sports academy and other venues. The lingering effects of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which opposed any western influences and oppressed those who introduced western approaches, are evident in the lack of skill development among many of the young musicians and the emphasis on technical skill rather than artistic interpretation. Written by
Oscar-winning documentary follows Isaac Stern's tour of China where he was invited by the government to spend three weeks. The tour included him performing some concerts but the main goal was to introduce children to the world of music, which was something they couldn't learn due to the Cultural Revolution that ran for over a decade. While I haven't seen every nominated film from 1981, I'm not certainly I'd heap too much praise on this film or find it Oscar-worthy but I think it's a pretty interesting look at a place where something as simple as music was taken away from them. This documentary does cover quite a bit of ground as we start off just seeing Stern travel to some rehearsals where he comments on the music playing and we also see the master at work himself. Fans of Stern will certainly enjoy hearing him play but they also get a chance to hear him speak about his craft as he teaches those around him. The film never gets overly political but it does deal with some darker issues of how the people were abused and just never given the freedom to do things that other places take for granted. There's a scene towards the hour mark where a man recounts his time of abuse that is really heartbreaking. I think what the film proves the most is how there's really no language to music and how so many people can be effected by it even if they're from different parts of the world.
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