On Tiptoe: The Music Of Ladysmith Black Mambazo (2000)

ERIC SIMONSON

Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBB

USA, 2000.  Noma Films, On Tiptoe Productions. Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Film Editing by .  

Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a South African group that achieved international fame after being discovered by Paul Simon and featured on his Graceland album. Since then they have grown in stature and toured to acclaim around the world, inspiring similar groups in their native country to follow their lead and form their own bands and, ultimately, beginning a contest at which they all compete against each other. Each group in its own way deals with apartheid (while it still exists) and its memories (after it is over), providing songs that are deeply felt as well as pleasing to the ear. This documentary on both the group and its followers is an uneven but informative look at an artform born from a scarred culture that seeks to peacefully resolve its damaged past. However, director Eric Simonson doesn’t focus enough on a particular subject for the film, probably owing to the fact that it began originally as an Oscar-nominated short, and its tangential nature makes it less memorable than it should be.

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