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Genghis Blues

At once whimsical and profound, Genghis Blues chronicles the journey of blind blues legend Paul Pena as he discovers the ancient art of Tuvan throat singing. Roko Belic’s brand of freestyle film-making brings an infectious energy to this documentary, which is both a powerful personal portrait and the story of a unique cultural exchange.

It all started when physicist Richard Feynman challenged his friend Ralph Leighton to find Tuva on the map. There it was, wedged between Siberia and Mongolia, and soon the two men became the first Americans to travel to Tuva, eventually paving the way for Tuvan singer Kongar ol-Ondar to perform in the United States. At about the same time, Pena was scanning his shortwave radio and stumbled upon one of Ondar’s songs. Fascinated, he spent the next decade teaching himself the techniques by which a singer can produce four notes simultaneously. Serendipity brought Pena to Ondar’s stateside performance and two years later Pena and an eclectic group of musicians and film-makers made a remarkable journey to Tuva.

Belic’s playfully earnest camera captures Pena’s excitement as he travels through the country, experiencing the drama of competition, witnessing spectacular performances, and Genghis Blues is a testament to the transformative powers of music.

USA, 1999
35mm from video
Colour
88mins.

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