Rotterdam 2013: Space is the Place

independent cinema office, January 2013

Rotterdam 2013: Space is the Place

Words by Kate Taylor for Independant Cinema Office

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There's a danger at festivals where you see a few OK films and then see something good, it is immediately elevated to masterpiece. So I'll try and lay off the hyperbole, but up next was the first film that I truly enjoyed and left the screening on a high; International Space Orchestra.

World Premiering in the Signals: Sound Stages section of the festival, this documentary charts the formation of an orchestra made up of space scientists from NASA, leading to a concert where they perform music composed by Damon Albarn and Bobby Womack, and Maywa Denki (the choir learning the Japanese phonetically), plus a libretto by Bruce Sterling and Jasmina Tesanovic.

Following a familiar documentary trajectory of the bumpy lead-up to a group performance, it has all the thrills of this form - they start out so bad, will they make it? etc. But what elevates it is the human dynamo at the centre, designer Nelly Ben Hayoun constantly disarming all around her with sheer French bossy-boots charisma. Eliciting candid responses from all stratas of the organisation, including an active astronaut, Hayoun's obsession with the dynamics of the Control Room position her well to surf around protocol and never take no for an answer. Funny, uplifting and just under an hour long. We have lift off. [...]