Roaring abyss is a trip into the vastness of Ethiopian cultures and music traditions. This is a road movie, in the most simple and unpretentious way; you feel the sounds so closely, you can almost smell the air and you know that it’s as close as you can get to actually being there yourself traveling- which really is a tremendous, magical achievement to weave out of a few very simple and short testimonies, and untranslated music.
The only translation is to the testimonies- the songs featured in the film are not translated and neither is any dialogue between people and I’m so grateful for this (and no, I don’t speak any of the 80 languages that exist in Ethiopia, in case you were wondering). I’m grateful for this because the film truly proves how strong the visual language of cinema is. As Alfred Hitchcock once said “If its a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a perfectly clear idea of what was going on.” Ok, in this case, the sound is vital don’t get me wrong but it could have easily been masked by some patronising voice-over, feeding us with a spoon, explaining things that really don’t need any explanation. Instead, director Quino Piñero allows us to meditate with the musicians and let the music flow into our souls; making it very difficult for you not to dance in your chair – also proving how strong the language of music is: by letting us listen to the full songs from beginning to end, Quino permits us to really immerse ourselves in the different types of music and allows a true documentary experience in a sense – you really are there, with the musicians, feeling their craft, their voice and their movements. He lets us observe, listen and feel the music and allows us to reach our own conclusions about it. It’s not a surprise when I learn that Quino Piñero is a sound engineer in his profession and has not only directed the film, but also sound recorded and mixed it. The film is really led by the music and feels true to its mission of keeping a record of an endangered music tradition. The only other way I could imagine to experience anything close, to what the film allows me to experience, is being in a music festival that included all of these amazing musicians but that wouldn’t provide the incredible sound quality I get to hear these songs in, and ironically, neither the closeness to the musicians. Yes a screen and geography separate us, but I’m so much closer to them than I would be in a crowded festival. Finally, for a music lover as myself, apart from also being educational, the film is pure entertainment, and I couldn’t keep a smile off my face- now tell me how many blockbusters you watch make you say that? So let’s make a deal, when you go to see the film at Film Africa on Saturday 5th of November at 18:30 in Ritzy Brixton and you start dancing in your chair- stand up, let go and dance because not only no one’s watching, the music deserves it and who said films need to be watched seated?
Roaring Abyss premieres in the UK as part of Film Africa 2016 – Followed by a Q&A with director Quino Piñero. Keep your ticket for free entry to the Film Africa Closing Party.