Sonic Mirror



Munich Film Festival

MUNICH -- From dirt-poor Brazilian kids to autistic adults in Switzerland to in-the-know Finnish jazz aficionados, Mika Kaurismaki's latest music documentary "Sonic Mirror" follows the legendary drummer and composer Billy Cobham as he unites them all through infectious, can't-stop-moving rhythm.

Beautifully photographed by Jacques Cheuiche with an eye to timeless images -- the crashing of waves, floating of snow and gnarled hands on a drumskin -- and spectacularly engineered and edited for sound by Uwe Dresch (also a producer and co-writer) and Oli Weiss, "Sonic Mirror" could become a classic for music lovers of all kinds, a film they will want to own in order to watch it again and again.

Cobham's virtuosic playing, his wisdom and playful personality all surface in turn. "Sonic Mirror" cuts seamlessly from a packed auditorium in Finland, where Cobham is performing one of his compositions with an orchestra, to a sweaty street in Brazil, where the world-famous jazz musician gets a lesson from a cocky kid on how to hit a bass drum. Then it's onward to a Swiss institution for autistic adults, where a music therapist is encouraging a young man to paint a picture about Cobham.

Cobham, still a wide-eyed explorer in the realm of the beat, guides us on our journey. But it is the smiles on everyone else's faces that are most deeply moving. There's the boy in Brazil, who has no Game Boy, no computer, no iPod and certainly not the coolest new sneakers, racing to drumming practice down his pitted street with a tremendous grin on his face. And a psychologically damaged young man who can barely keep himself from exploding with happiness as he watches Cobham play in the institution's small concert room.

Then there's Cobham, doing a drum solo in Finland with four sticks at once, two in each hand, or tapping out the Latin rhythms he heard as a boy on the corner of Fulton Street and Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn on the hood of a parked car. Wherever we are, whatever we are hearing, the "Sonic Mirror" of rhythm reflects everyone's humanity -- which for Kaurismaki is clearly something to celebrate.

Marco Forster Prods., Doc Prods., Marianna Films Oy, Uwe Dresch Films, SF Swiss Television, SRG SSR idee suisse, YLE co-productions
Director: Mika Kaurismaki
Screenwriters: Mika Kaurismaki, Marco Forster, Uwe Dresch
Producers: Marco Forster, Rose-Marie Schneider, Mika Kaurismaki, Uwe Dresch, Madeleine Hirsiger, Urs Augstburger, Alberto Chollet, Erkki Astala
Director of photography: Jacques Cheuiche
Music: Billy Cobham, Male Debale Brazil, Okuta Percussion Nigeria, Tunji Beier/Espoo Big Band Finland, Swiss Mix Switzerland
Editors: Oli Weiss, Uwe Dresch
Running time -- 81 minutes
No MPAA rating