TJFF 2017: Our Review of ‘Mandala Beats’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Movies, TJFF 2017 by - May 15, 2017
TJFF 2017: Our Review of ‘Mandala Beats’

Yossi Fine has been called the Jimi Hendrix of bass guitar and has worked with many notable artists including David Bowie. However, in his own mind, Fine is simply a man of mixed heritage who was “born to bridge cultures.” This sentiment is echoed throughout Canadian filmmaker Rebekah Reiko’s documentary Mandala Beats.

Born to an Eastern European Jewish father and a West Indian mother, Fine was influenced by African rhythms and the music of Bob Marley from an early age. Discovering that his bloodline also includes Indian heritage, Reiko’s film observes Fine as he jumps at the chance to visit Mumbai and the surrounding areas to take part in a collaborative project with a local musicians and Israeli artists such as Shye Ben Tzur and Gil Ron Shama.

Instead of merely highlighting Fine’s musical talents, though watching his nibble fingers effortless move across the vibrating bass strings is in itself hypnotic, Reiko’s film spends the bulk of its time exploring music’s ability to transcend and unify cultures. As Gil Ron Shama points out in the film, music seems to be the one thing in the world, unlike the environment, that humans have not destroyed.

As engaging as Fine is, the one drawback to Reiko’s film is that audiences get very little insight into the musician’s personal life. A quick shot of his three sons, and a brief moment where Fine talks about having to drop his kids off at various activities, do little to provide weight to the film. Fortunately for Reiko, the footage of Fine’s trip in India, and various jam sessions, help to fill the void. Offering a solid introduction to Fine’s extraordinary career, Mandala Beats shows that music is indeed the medicine that will heal our souls.

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Courtney has been sharing his thoughts on film online since 2006. The founder of Cinema Axis, he frequently celebrates diversity in cinema as one of the co-hosts of the Changing Reels podcast on Modern Superior. A regular on the Regent Radio program Frameline, Courtney has contributed to several publications including Black Girl Nerds, Comix Asylum Magazine and The Grid Does TIFF. He is also a member of both the Canadian Association of Online Film Critics and the Online Film Critics Society.