Stuck in the Czech Republic as a result of a travel ban announced after the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, I watch one random film a day until the travel ban is lifted to keep some of my sanity intact.
Béla Fleck is recognized as one of the world’s greatest banjo players of al time. Throw Down Your Heart was a major and ambitious project that saw him traveling across the African continent in 2008 to discover the African origins of his instrument of choice.
During the trip, he connects with master musicians of a wide variety of traditional African instruments in Uganda, Tanzania, Gambia and Mali. These encounters are documented in this film, directed by Sascha Paladino, and prove that art can truly be a bridge between culture.
Throughout Throw Down Your Heart, we discover much about African traditions and the protagonists even share stories about slavery that have been handed down through generations. Yet, there is no narration and even the dialogues between Fleck and the other musicians are kept to a minimum in favor of a shared and mostly improvised musical dialogue – which also helps overcome language barriers.
Fleck himself comes across as enthusiastic but also quite kind and even a little shy, which is very endearing. Malian singer Oumou Sangare even suggests towards the end that Fleck is better at expressing his emotions with his fingers than his words, which subtly adds a personal dimension to Throw Down Your Heart that goes beyond the wonderful music itself.
THROW DOWN YOUR HEART | Director – Sacha Paladino | USA | 2009