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They Came to Play (2008)

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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 104 users  
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Chronicles the Fifth International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs, hosted by The Van Cliburn Foundation. Players from all over the world, ranging from self-taught to ... See full summary »


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Title: They Came to Play (2008)

They Came to Play (2008) on IMDb 7.1/10

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Credited cast:
Henri Robert Delbeau ...
Mark Fuller ...
Clark Griffith ...
Ken Iisaka ...
Slava Levin ...
Drew Mays ...
Suzanna Perez ...
Richard Rodzinski ...
Esfir Ross ...
Kathy Trafton ...


Chronicles the Fifth International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs, hosted by The Van Cliburn Foundation. Players from all over the world, ranging from self-taught to classically-trained, aged thirty-five to almost eighty, convene in Fort Worth, Texas for a week of intense competition, music and camaraderie. The film the film provides an intimate look into the lives of these colorful, multi-faceted competitors as they strive to balance the demands of work and family with their love of music. Years of dedicated preparation culminate in critical performances before a professional jury and discerning audience during three nerve-wracking elimination rounds. Written by Anonymous

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Documentary | Music



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25 October 2008 (USA)  »

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User Reviews

Documentary of an international piano competition filled with music, people and passion (really)
2 February 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I tend to judge a film on two criteria: 1) do I care about the characters? and 2) what kind of "stickability" does the film have with me--do I remember it tomorrow? next week? next month?

First, regarding this film's "characters", this is a documentary, so all of these people are real people--and I might add real characters. As Ann Landers used to say "truth is stranger"; you simply could not script this stuff any better.

To explain, the competition at the heart of this documentary is international in scope and limited to the serious amateur who is at least 35 years old. What this translates into is a competition among people who despite their tremendous love of music, as well as their apparent mastery of the piano, know they will never "make it" professionally--i.e. no one's leaving their day job anytime too soon. This is key: this movie is all about people willing to put themselves out there to passionately pursue a dream all the while knowing that even if the dream is achieved, their daily lives will go on pretty much the same as before.

The movie chronicles the journey these passionate, talented people are willing to take leading them to Fort Worth, Texas for this rather intense five day competition. At the beginning, the film introduces you to a handful of the competitors in their homes as they prepare for the competition. Later, you get to see many of these same people as they leave the stage in their physically exhausted, emotionally open and raw state. You hear their stories; you get to know them. And ultimately, you pick your personal favorites. Then, you get to watch them fight it out as they each pursue the prize of a first place finish.

In short, I loved these "characters", but what's more is that I admired them deeply. My sense is that it is people like these competitors who are showing us all how to live. How to pull out all the stops and really go for it.

In terms of the movie's "stickability", I saw the movie three months ago and as you can see if you've read this far, it is still very much with me.

If you are a fan of the documentary, this movie is a must see; it spins a yarn as tightly as did "Spellbound" or "WordPlay". If you are a fan of classical music, this movie is a must see; the music throughout is beautifully performed. If on the other hand, you are just okay with documentaries and don't really care for classical music--please see it anyway. Assuming you are an alive breathing human being--you will go away glad you did if for no other reason than the entertainment value.

But beyond that, seeing it may leave you open to living life just a little more fully--something you don't typically get from a night at the movies.

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