The extraordinary odyssey of a U.S. musician of Cape Verdean ancestry to Tannu Tuva, in central Asia, where nomadic people throat sing more than one note simultaneously, using vocal harmonics. A bluesman, Paul Pena, blind and recently widowed, taught himself throat singing and was by chance invited to the 1995 throat-singing symposium in Kyzyl. Helped by the "Friends of Tuva," Pena makes the arduous journey. Singing in the deep, rumbling kargyraa style, Pena gives inspired performances at the festival, composes songs in Tuvan, washes his face in sacred rivers, expresses the disorientation of blindness in foreign surroundings, and makes a human connection with everyone he meets.Written by
Director Christopher Nolan receives one of his earliest credits on this documentary, when he is listed under 'Editorial Assistance'. When he spent 3 years in Chicago as a child, he was friends with Roko and Adrian Belic and the three of them made short Super 8 movies together. See more »
The story of blind bluesman Paul Pena's trip to the little known republic of Tuva is certainly an unusual one. He learns about Tuvan throat singing by hearing it on a shortwave radio, learns how to throatsing himself. When a Tuvan throat-singing master visits the States, Paul and the singer encounter each other. Along with Friends of Tuva and a small film crew, Paul embarks on a trip to Tuva, meets the throat singer, and enters in a competition. Paul is a remarkably gifted musician, and the film manages to capture that as well as some of the pain, anxiety, and fear that he is feeling. Still, this documentary could have been filmed and edited in more capable hands. How Paul is feeling about his experiences as a blind person in a foreign place is not presented with the kind of power and clarity it could have been presented with. And the feeling arises watching the film that there are many elements to this story that the documentarian is not willing to explore. Still, Genghis Blues is a fascinating record of a meeting of cultures and musical styles.
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