Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Brazilian singer-songwriter-turned-politician Gilberto Gil may be taking a "musical voyage" around the indigenous populations of Australia, Africa and his homeland but documentarian Pierre-Yves Borgeaud is all at sea when it comes to making his point.

His film begins by following Gil as he walks up a street and through a door. It's a manoeuvre that sets the tone for what is to come - 90 minutes that largely involve the camera drifting after the musician with little purpose or focus as he goes about his travels. Gil seems to be a very pleasant and well-meaning sort and he meets lots of other pleasant people but we next to nothing about him or about the cultures with which he is interacting. We see him take part in ceremonies but there is no attempt to go beyond the most basic of details as to what cultural significance these hold. His exchanges with several aborigines about the shifting sands of their culture made me think back to just how good documentaries such as Kanyini and In My Father's Country are by comparison - neither of which got a UK release.

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If anything, the segment in Africa is even looser, with little of note being said. The film is lifted by its musical segments - and the way that Gil incorporates aspects of the various cultural traditions is interesting - but either much more of these or much less of them would have helped to give the documentary more shape and direction. Given that the need for better communication lies at the heart of much of what is being said, with several of the people Gil talks to speaking about the dialogue that their traditions have with those of the western colonizers of their countries, it seems a shame that the film seems to have so little to say beyond well-meaning platitudes and it's a small world after all. There is positivity here but it is captured by Borgeaud in a way that makes it seem much more aimless than it ought to be.

The film's most interesting moment comes when a group of teenage aborigine boys rap about their status in society. What is striking is that when they rap, they spit out the lyrics with American accents. It's a reminder that colonization is a shape-shifter that comes in many forms.

Reviewed on: 01 Aug 2013
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Cultural travels with Brazilian musician-turned-politician Gilberto Gil.
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Director: Pierre-Yves Borgeaud

Starring: Peter Garrett, Gilberto Gil, Paul Hanmer, Vusi Mahlasela

Year: 2013

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: France, Switzerland


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