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March 29, 2000 - Image 8

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-03-29

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8- The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, March 29, 2000
ART S
Documentary sings 'Blues' of foreign man

By David Victor
Daily Arts Writer
Ever hear of a little place near
Siberia called Tuva? A forgotten coun-
try absorbed by Russia after World War
l, Tuva is home to a unique'style of
singing. Think of a leaf-blower with a
melody, and you have Tuvan
throatsinging. It seems as foreign and
distant as its country of origin, but
"Ghengis Blues" is the story of how a
man from San Francisco came to Tuva,
singing their native music. It makes for
compelling documentary (the film
as nominated for Best Documentary
ma the Academy Awards) and a truly
_ ique story of worlds colliding.

Paul Pena was a blues singer, born
blind. He played. with the likes of B.B.
King in blues halls across the country.
Recently, his wife died and the blind
Pena began searching the shortwave
radio frequencies to keep himself occu-
pied. He came across an odd sound
that he didn't know at the time was
Tuvan throatsinging.
Intrigued by the strange sound, Pena
began studying the art of throatsinging.
To learn the meaning of the strange
songs he heard from half a world away,
Pena needed to translate the Tuvan into
English. He tracked down two braille
dictionaries, one from Tuvan to Russ-
ian and one from Russian to Tuvan.
Through sheer coincidence, a Tuvan

throatsinging troupe was in town and
Pena went to hear them. The rest, as
they say, is history.
"Ghengis Blues" is the story of
Pena's journey to Tuva and his adven-
tures in the distant land. He performs at
a throatsinging competition. He visits
Tuvan landmarks. He journey's from
Tuva's deserts to it's grassy pastures. A
camera crew, a DJ and some amateur
filmmakers accompany him. Through
highs and lows, we learn about Pena
and the foreign land he has traveled to.
For the most part, "Blues" makes for
a very compelling story. The unique
music, unique people and unique set-
ting draw you in from the very begin-
ning. While Pena isn't the best

storyteller, the other people involved in
the trip supply most of the commen-
tary, keeping the pace up throughout
the film.
However, the high-spirits, impromp-

tu feel of this film
Ghengis
Blues
Grade: B
At the Michigan
Theater

is backed up by
some awful cam-
era work. This is
a film made by
amateurs, and it
shows. The col-
ors are washed
out and bland,
and the video-to-
film transfer is
grainy and blurry
whenever the
camera moves.
The way Pena
interacts with the
culturally isolat-

ed Tuvans makes for some memorable
moments. In a few scenes, Pena plays
his native blues to folksy people of
Tuva, and they sit enraptured. His
throatsinging is also unique, and you'll
see why the Tuvans nicknamed him
"jishin," which is Tuvan for "earth-
quake." His deep voice drones and
warbles, rivaling any Tuvan at their
own art.
The story of Pena is both tragic and
triumphant, as he overcame his stifling
disability to do what no one else has
ever done. "Genghis Blues" is the story
of how the language.of music tran-
scends cultures and differences to bring
people together in ways never thought
possible. Do yourself a favor and
check out "Genghis Blues." You'll find
yourself trying throatsinging yourself
as you drive home from the theater.

courtesy of Buena Vi tcture
Jodi Lyn O'Keefe stars in "Whatever it Takes."
WHATEVER
Continued from Page 5
The entire narrative seems aimec
to the lowest common denominato
- within the first five minutes we
have a pretty good idea how thing
are going to end up and th tory
never strays from the beaten path
When this is the case, a film need
large amounts of humor to maintain
our interest before its inevitable fin
ish. "American Pie" was a pretty
basic sorry but at least it was funny
and amusing enough to keep ou
attention.
Here, however, the screenwriter
fall back on all the usual tricks fo
laughs including a lecture to student
on safe sex, a five foot tall nme1 o
the male reproductive organ and the
much-beloved guy sneaks into girl'
locker room scene. The kicker, how
ever, is a sequence where Ashley
chugs a glass of lemonade and thei
hops on an amusement park ride
with Ryan. Any guesses as to hov
that turns out?
All of the characters here are noth
ing more than cliches and reo
types ranging from beauty to ck tc
the two best friends who are really
meant for each other. There's noth
ing original here, no heart, no pas
sion for making movies. The film i:
lifeless and dead from the second i
hits the screen to the gloriou,
moment when the credits finally
arise. Save your hard-earned money
and watch "Saved By The Bell," iti
got the same message and you migh
even crack a smile or two.

-. .,. - . ° g

4 F------

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