'The Song of Names' -- a film about remembrance, music and a mysterious disappearance

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Image: Serendipity Point Films and François Girard. Used with permission.

François Girard and Face2Face host David Peck talk about Girard's new film The Song of Names, focusing on themes of history, remembrance, choices, mystery and discovery, film as music, and the paradox of technology and music.

Martin Simmonds has been haunted throughout his life by the mysterious disappearance of his brother and extraordinary best friend. Dovidl Rapaport is a Polish Jewish virtuoso violinist who vanished shortly before the 1951 London debut concert that would have launched his brilliant career. Thirty-five years later, Martin discovers that Dovidl may still be alive, and sets out on an obsessive intercontinental search to find him and learn why he left.

Shortly before the Second World War, Martin's music publisher father, Gilbert (Stanley Townsend), invites young Dovidl Rapoport, a 10-year-old Jewish violin prodigy from Poland, to live in their London home. Gilbert's intent is to help the boy achieve his musical potential and protect him from the imminent German invasion of Poland. Martin, also 10, initially sees Dovidl as an invader in his house, but Dovidl's worries about the plight of his family in Warsaw elicits Martin's compassion, and he is won over by the young genius's charisma and rebelliousness.

Soon they are as close as brothers. Having the extraordinary Dovidl as his best friend and confidant opens up Martin's narrow world, and enhances his self-confidence. Over several years as the boys grow up, Gilbert lavishes all his attention and the money he has on developing Dovidl's talent, a process that elicits jealousy from Martin, despite his love for Dovidl. Eventually, Gilbert stages an extravagant London debut for Dovidl at age 21. Unfortunately, as the audience and orchestra await Dovidl’s arrival on stage, Dovidl fails to appear.

The cancellation of the concert bankrupts and devastates Gilbert, who dies soon after. It also leaves Martin with the loss of the brother he loved, the lingering question of what happened, and a growing bitterness over Dovidl's responsibility for Martin's father’s death. Almost four decades later, Martin follows the clues that lead him ever closer to his friend, until he learns the meaning of The Song of Names, a profoundly moving piece of music that holds the answer to why his brother vanished so suddenly from his life.

About the Director:

François Girard gained notoriety as much for his filmmaking as for his staging of operas and theater plays. In 1993, his feature film Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould would go on to garner international success including four top Genie Awards. Five years later he directed The Red Violin, featuring Samuel L. Jackson, which received an Academy Award for best original score and enshrined Girard as an important player on the international movie scene. The film also won eight Genie Awards and nine Jutra Awards. Silk, which he later directed, was adapted from Alessandro Baricco's best-selling book, and was released worldwide in 2007. The cast includes Michael Pitt, Keira Knightley, Alfred Molina, Miki Nakatani and Koji Yakusho, and it received four Jutra awards. 

Most recently, Hochelaga, Land of Souls, was presented at the Toronto Film Festival, and represented Canada in the race for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at the 90th Academy Awards. It was released in September 2017 and was greatly acclaimed by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television (ACTRA). Girard’s 1994 concert film Peter Gabriel's Secret World, became a best-selling film and earned him a Grammy Award. A few years later he directed one of the six episodes of the internationally acclaimed series Yo-Yo Ma: Inspired By Bach.

In 1997, François Girard made his opera directorial debut with Oedipus Rex/Symphony of Psalms by Stravinsky and Cocteau, which received numerous awards and was named by The Guardian as "the best theatrical show of the year." Since then he has directed several operas. In recent years, Cirque du Soleil commissioned Girard to write and direct Zed, their first permanent show in Tokyo; and Zarkana, which opened at Radio City Music Hall, played at the Kremlin Theatre and has become a resident show in Las Vegas. To date, François Girard's accomplishments have earned him over one hundred international awards and public acclaim the world over.

Image: Serendipity Point Films and François Girard. Used with permission.

F2F Music: David Peck and Face2Face. 

For more information about David Peck’s podcasting, writing and public speaking please visit his site here.

With thanks to Josh Snethlage and Mixed Media Sound.


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