Hot Docs 2019
Austin, Sound Unseen
Young pipe organists vie for the top prize in a major competition.
Taking place in Montreal every three years, the Canadian International Organ Competition draws the best pipe organists to compete for prizes and acclaim in this particular part of the music world. Filmmaker Stacey Tenenbaum focuses on the 2017 edition, profiling several young musicians as they prepare for and compete in Montreal. In adapting her feature project for a broadcast hour slot, Tenenbaum cut one of her original five subjects, but she likely should have gone even further. Of the remaining organists, Yuan Shen and Alcee Chriss III are the most compelling, with more developed storylines and interesting backgrounds than the other two virtuosi, Nick Cappozoli or Sebastian Heindl. Excising one of the latter would have helped reduce the sometimes choppy feel of the film, which, while breaking no new ground in the competition doc sub-genre, is notably and appropriately cinematic on both a visual and audio level.