IT MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR A CONCERTO IS A CONVERSATION!!!
Next April, the 93rd Academy Awards will finally take place. As per usual, there are several nominees that are worth keeping an eye out in several categories worthy of recognition. One of those categories is Documentary (Short Subject), which, while featuring a few entries that aren’t at the same length, or aren’t as buzz-worthy, as the full featured ones, these short documentaries do have something important to say. You already know our thoughts towards Hunger Ward, which is also nominated for that category. And now, we’re covering about the surprisingly heart-warming A Concerto is a Conversation, which took part at the New York Times Op-Doc program, as well as also recently making its presence known at this year’s edition of the Sundance Film Festival.
We follow musician/film composer Kris Bowers as he prepares for his concerto, For a Younger Self, which took place at the Disney Concert Hall, in Los Angeles, on February 2020. However, before all that, Bowers had an insightful conversation with 91-year-old grandfather, Horace Bowers Sr., as he recalls his experiences as a person of colour from the 1940’s until the modern age.
Its concept is fairly simple in its overall design. It basically amounts to a simples, but sincere, conversation between two men, a grandfather and a grandson, at the eve of the latter’s biggest event in his life. However, they’re also men of colour, which brings on itself quite a few challenges, especially in modern times, when race crimes are, sadly, all too common these days. We get to see Kris expressing his own doubts about his own achievments in life (which include several nominations for his scoring duties in several projects such as Green Book or When They See Us).
And while his personal doubts are compelling in their own right, it’s Bowers Sr.‘s tale that manages to strike a more profound cord. Through his own words, we witness his experiences at a plantation in Florida, the moment when he decided to leave the life (and racism) he knew behind and how he kept fighting that same racism when he finally arrived in Los Angeles. It’s a simples exchange of ideas between these two, but they also pack a serious punch, in the sense of how both of them, even though they are generations apart, have dealt with racism in America and the various ways they turned around in order to find a better, honest, more fulfilling, life.
As far as its technicalities go, A Concerto is a Conversation doesn’t present anything new, as its mostly combines stock footage of decades prior with a few scenes shot more recently. And while the editing isn’t anything to write home about, the same cannot be said about its photography, with the use of close ups bringing us closer to the subjects of matter, bringing that sense of intimacy in the conversation at play. The expert combination of photography with the light and shadow provides with plenty of memorable images that we won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Kris Bowers might make his directorial debut with this short documentary (alongside Ben Proudfoot), but he’s also pulling double duty as its composer, with his quieter, simple tones serving as complements to the whole conversation. It brings a few moments of joy, of warmth, of sadness and pain. And in the end, that was the whole point of the musical arrangement.
Regardless of its runtime (is doesn’t even reach the 15-minute mark), A Concert is a Conversation is a thoughtful conversation between two people of colour about racism of America. But it’s deeper than that; it can be seen as Kris Bowers‘ personal tribute to the one man who basically influenced his own life. And while it doesn’t get much appraisal than other documentaries about true crime events or about the nature around us, it still feels personal and whole. And it’s definitely worthy the watch.
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Title: A Concerto is a Conversation
Cast: Kris Bowers, Horace Bowers Sr.
Runtime: 13 minutes