A Magical Substance Flows Into Me
There’s a telling moment in Jumana Manna’s documentary when a friend’s father cautiously asks her what her own parents think about the work she’s doing. The work in question is a film about the musical history of both Israel and Palestine, and how this has culturally influenced both peoples. Manna inserts herself into key scenes in the film; it helps to get a sense of the task she’s undertaking when she is onscreen, answering the question.
The documentary makes use of numerous recordings from the 1930s, featuring German-Jewish ethnomusicologist Robert Lachmann, who broadcasted from the Palestinian territories at the time, with equal attention given to all music of the region regardless of its specific background. Manna occasionally reads from transcripts of Lachmann’s broadcasts, and the man himself can also be heard. These pieces sit side-by-side with performances from Israeli musicians and displaced people, living on what is now Israeli or heavily disputed territory. Credit is due for the varied group of interviewees who have been recruited to give their two cents, although the lack of background given to the subjects – who are not even named – leaves some sections without necessary context. Manna examines the style of a selection of music that Lachmann featured on broadcasts, expands upon it, and then it is performed. It’s pretty straightforward.
If anything, this complex task is handled a little too straightforwardly, and any real insight is not forthcoming. Naturally, there are no easy answers when it comes to the issue of Palestine, hence the cautious questioning from Manna’s friend’s father. While it’s a noble effort with sublime musical performances, the whole package feels like it could have benefited from a more clearly-defined angle on the subject matter. Manna’s fascination in her work is obvious, and it’s this enthusiasm (along with the music) that is A Magical Substance Flows Into Me’s saving grace.
A Magical Substance Flows into Me does not yet have a UK release date.
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