The Toronto International Film Festival featured two impressive stories about music and the trials of surviving in the music world.
In the elegiac “The Violin,” Plutarco is an aged and humble violinist with one hand missing. Every day he takes his son and grandson to town to play traditional Mexican music for the townsfolk where they make enough tips to get a few tacos. There is turmoil in the countryside as peasants are being driven out, tortured and killed by an oppressive government force. Plutarco finds a way to help his son, who is one of the leaders of the guerrilla force, by hiding bullets for the guerillas in his violin case. Forced to rent a donkey, which cost him his entire year’s crops, Plutarco quietly slips past the captain guarding the fields where he has hidden his stash of bullets.
Plutarco lulls the captain with his enchanting violin music.
Shot in black and white, the film takes on a timeless nature, rooted deep in the history of people’s music. Plutarco is portrayed with great sensitivity by Mexican violinist, Don Angel Tavira, who lost his right hand in a tragic accident at the age of 13.
Tavira’s classic face tells it all, and the violin that fits under his chin appears like a lifelong appendage. The poignant ending to this enchanting, but tragic, story is unforgettable.
In Kurdish Iran, a similar fate awaits an aging and renowned musician in the film “Half Moon.” As a dream to complete his life of music, Mamo enlists his 10 musical adult sons to join him in a bus driven by his longtime friend, Kako. They travel a long and treacherous path to play in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Past hellish checkpoints, fighting religious taboos, and mechanical problems with the ancient and dilapidated bus, they barely make it to the border. The female singer who provides the “celestial voice” has to be hidden under the floor of the bus at checkpoints or else be taken to prison if she’s discovered. Women are not allowed to sing publicly in front of men in Iran.
Unfortunately, she’s discovered, and later on, so is her replacement. Instruments are smashed and destroyed by police searching the bus. And the bus is taken away.
This is a film like you’ve never seen before.
The landscapes are beautiful, the music is unforgettable and the political realities of the region play a significant part in the story.
Iranian master Bahman Ghobadi, known for his award-winning films “A Time For Drunken Horses” and “Turtles Can Fly,” directed this passionate and emotional film.
Forty million Kurds, mainly in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, make up one of the largest ethnicities without a recognized state.
These two films demonstrate not only that nations can and should exist without borders, but also music transcends artificial boundaries.