10 year old Szofi ist new at school, and her greatest wish is to sing in the school choir. She always loved to sing, and in the choir there is that nice girl from her new class, and that's great, because otherwise not many people have been noticing her yet.
And then there is the choir teacher... she is so sweet and patient, in every rehearsal, so very enthusiastic, that the choir has already been awarded several prizes. What a great honour for a "small" school choir! What an honour and joy to be a part of it and sing there. Of course she is on board!
But after the first rehearsal Szofi has to realize that the actions of the conductor aren't so inspiring after all... should she say something or remain silent?
This is the premise of the short film "Sing" (Hungary, 2016), which was awarded an Oscar this year, and which is available to watch for free on the arte television website. There's a caveat here, because the film is only available in Hungarian with German subtitles, but I will say that even if you don't speak either of these languages, you'll understand almost everything. It's just that good a film.
I want to recommend this film because on the one hand it's a great example of a director who knows a thing or two about music (for a hilarious example of the opposite, please watch this little clip from the German 2008 Buddenbrooks movie, a bewildering scene in which neither the actress knows how to hold the violin properly nor the director cared enough to make sure her movements were in sync with the music... just hilarious... watch it here...).
But I digress, back to the short film. Director Kristóf Deák is able to touch on a couple loaded topics, e.g. the question of what is talent (or no-talent) in the first place, and also the question of how to react appropriately to matters of (social) injustice.
What the conductor does is to invite Szofi to a private audition after the first rehearsal, after which she advises her to just sing "mutely" for now and just mouth the text with her lips. Because Szofi, in her opinion, doesn't sing as well as the other children. And pretty please, would Szofi not tell the other children about this, because Szofi doesn't want them to realize that she isn't good enough for the choir, does she?
What an incredible insolence and unfairness towards the girl! And, sadly, situations like these still happen among us! Like, when a teacher says "you just don't have any sense of rhythm" or "it's just not going to work out with you". Here, the situation is mostly lived in silence and never challenged, because in most cases, the parents/students trust the teacher's expertise. But who is a teacher in the first place to make such statements? It's not the question if Szofi sings well or not(and Deák doesn't touch on this matter), but whether it's acceptable that, in the artistic world, a selected few are holding the doors shut to the many others. Enough of that! A musical life without armor means also not to identify with the so-called successes of one's students. There is a lot of this attitude making the rounds, even (or, dare I say, especially) at the level of higher musical education.
We need brave musicians, now more than ever, to connect with people (students and audience) in an honest and powerful way - not to hide behind our insecurities. Because, guess what? Everyone is scared. And also...?
It's less scary if we do the first step together.
You can watch the film here until December 8. I loved it, I was moved, and it's also just a very good film, and well played by the young actors. Enjoy.