Song From the Forest
(Michael Obert, Germany, 2013, Blu-ray, 96 min)
Wednesday, Nov 05 at 07:00PM
"From the shallow water protruded an elephant's collar bone that I used as a place to put my tooth brush and soap. A few meters further, underneath a cluster of water plants lay the skull. Sometimes I had the feeling of being the most privileged man on earth."
As a young man, burgeoning musicologist Louis Sarno was gripped by a Bayaka pygmies song he heard on the radio. After researching the song's homeland, he traveled to the rainforest of the Central African Republic to learn more. 25 years later, he has recorded thousands of hours of Bayaka music, raised a son in the forest and lives with the Bayaka people.
Director Michael Obert, himself extensively well-travelled in remote locales as a journalist, picks up Louis's story as he prepares to return to the U.S. for the first time in years, with the intention of introducing 13 year-old Samedi to his home country. The trip includes a visit to Louis's dear old college roommate and dear friend, Jim Jarmusch (whose films Dead Man and Ghost Dog incorporate aspects of Sarno's life)
A juxtaposition of jungles, Song from the Forest won Best Feature Length Documentary at IDFA, the world's largest doc fest, for its mellifluous melding of cityscape and rainforest. The film's many-layered structure evokes the polyphony of Bayaka music, giving visual voice to the many melodic strands that comprise the soundscapes of globalisation.
Eschewing linear narrative, Obert builds a ruminative exchange between forest and city. Bayaka music overlays establishing shots of the American urban jungle, creating a sonic merger of two disparate worlds, wedged ever closer together by the mechanics of globalisation (most grossly symbolised by the destruction of the rainforest the Bayaka have called home for centuries).
Northwest Film Forum (View)
1515 12th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122