I have recently watched the Klezmatics: On Holy Groundye documentary once again with joy and although I generally do not write on music and film, I was so moved by it I wanted to write a blog piece. As Joshua Nelson says in the film, the Klezmatics' music is 'the soul speaking to you'. In fact, the camera embedded with love and warmth, aesthetically, emotionally and musically allows the film speak to one's soul whilst at the same time capturing the past, present and the future of the band. In fact, the modesty and elegance of the band has gently permeated the spirit of the film through the language of music.
Each frame is carefully chosen to highlight the vibrant colours of their music, lives, challenges they face (individually and as a group). The music presented through interviews, rehearsals and concerts in the film keeps one alive as the rhythmic elements of the music takes you to an emotional journey on each note.
The members of the band look familiar. The directorial choices seem to have created a rather fascinating effect as they help build a warm connection between the audience and Lisa, Lorin, Matt, Frank, Paul and Richie. This feeling of 'we have known them as friends for years' does not leave you at all, throughout the film. Although only a short part of the film, the animation (which reminds of the Persepolis aesthetic) is a joy to watch because it adds to this sense of familiarity with the characters.
Each incredibly talented individuals of the group represent an aspect of life and embedded in them are a variety of challenges (be it at the level of performance, or financial contexts within which they produce their music; and even at the level of creativity). Lisa is an amazing (and exemplary for that matter) independent woman who speaks the most moving language of the violin that touches one's heart with each move; Lorin's accordion and vocals shakes one to the bone or fills you with feelings which you only get when celebrating the arrival of spring after a long winter; Frank's life and music move you deeply as he is a man of hope, love and excellent humour; Matt's sax and clarinet is as exciting as his pink hat which brings even more colour to the style of the group; Richie's youth seems to bring energy to the band.
Revealing and depicting these qualities at the level of filmic representation is a big challenge (which can only be met by passion), which Erik Greenberg Anjou has so successfully met. The sadness and at times tensions that the band faces are attached to the film so modestly, yet they manage to have a rather powerful effect on the audience.
I would like to end with the hope that the film wins The Klezmatics more and more awards; even a bigger reputation and more and more listeners and fans from all over the world and from all languages and religions; just like their music which calls for peace and invites all genres of music no matter if it is tones of jazz, gospel music or classical music. Overall, the documentary's success in representing the human side and emotional side of the band (through the stories of each of the members and the group as a whole) coincides or merges with The Klezmatics' raison d'être.