Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Twenty Nine is based on a sound installation called QUI. QUI is a permanent exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and is broadly similar in structure. Both works are based on a choir singing a complex choral piece based on a 15th century motet, translated from the original Latin into a variety of languages, sung by a variety of performers.

QUI has 29 singers singing in 29 languages, Twenty Nine has 21. That's an oddity, but not a problem. Using split screens and insets and a black background and stunning, structured, lighting, we see the singers as they sing. Women, men, singing in the 'languages of their heritage'. They're each credited with their language, but it would be pointless to single anyone out - this is a collective effort, but it's Laurel MacDonald's vision, aided by her occasional collaborator John Oswald.

Some are shown when they are not singing, all are treated well, and a final shot of the assemblage contains a small surprise. It's visually complex, impressive aurally, and a treat. Twenty Nine started as a sound installation, but it seems to have survived the transition well, though not without incident. Eye for Film saw it at Glasgow's 2011 Short Film Festival, at a screening attended by MacDonald. We also saw the film in mono, which isn't how it's meant to be delivered. The review you see here is, then, incomplete - though we enjoyed and admired it, and you should go and see it, you should know that in part that's because we know it's better than it is when we saw it. If nothing else it's a reminder of how important sound is to film, that the reason that Sound Mixing and Sound Editing are in the main Oscars and not the ancillary technical awards is because of how vital a role they play. If you get the chance, XXIX should also demonstrate this to you.

Reviewed on: 02 Mar 2011
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Twenty-one Canadian singers perform a contemporary resetting of a 15th century choral piece, each one singing in their ancestral language.
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Director: Laurel MacDonald

Year: 2010

Runtime: 7 minutes

Country: Canada


Glasgow 2011

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