Title   Cast   Director   Year Shown  Other Info    Country  Notes 

Het ondergronds orkest

Netherlands, 1997, 108 min

Shown in 1998


Heddy Honigmann
Pieter van Huystee
Heddy Honigmann, Noshuld Lely
Eric Guichard
Mario Steenbergen


Fortuna Films, Prinsengracht 634, 1017 KT Amsterdam, Netherlands. FAX: 31-20-638-0149
North American Premiere
The Underground Orchestra

In Metal and Melancholy (SFIFF 1994) and O Amor Natural (SFIFF 1997), Heddy Honigmann demonstrated her unique flair for drawing the most out of the “everyday people” she interviewed. Now, in her new film she has subtitled “Music and Melancholy,” the filmmaker has gone to Paris to find another source for her wonderful revelations of unfamiliar lives. Ethereal music fills the tunnels of a Paris metro station, and Honigmann’s handheld camera finally discovers the secret: a strangely serene Peruvian man in a narrow stairwell, plucking a giant harp. The music seems to come from somewhere else, somewhere far away. So Honigmann keeps searching. She talks to accordionists, violinists, tribal singers. When authorities block her from filming in the metro, she follows the musicians above ground, into cheap cafes and crowded residential hotels. She encounters people who have come from all parts of the globe. Each time, she wants to know where they came from, what forced them to leave, why they are driven to play music. Their tales are a survey of the troubles of contemporary history—civil war in Algeria, social dislocation in Romania, genocide in Yugoslavia, concentration camps in Zaire. In each case, music has been key to their survival. It is not just a way to wangle loose change from fellow Parisians; it is a way to mourn and to heal, to maintain a connection, however tenuous, with a world that is otherwise lost to them. It’s intensely moving, the music they create—it tells of their deepest longings, and also speaks to ours.

—Robert Landon