Friday, November 13, 2009

The Hand of Fatima

Opening this weekend: The Hand of Fatima, directed by Augusta Palmer

Synopsis from the film's website:

The Hand of Fatima interweaves two parallel journeys separated by over theirty years: Robert Palmer’s 1971 pilgrimage to Jajouka and his daughter Augusta Palmer’s 2006 trip to the village. These two visits to Jajouka create a multilayered portrait of a music critic and his favorite band, while providing a very focused lens to track our shifting perceptions of the Islamic world.

Robert Palmer first visited Jajouka on assignment for Rolling Stone in 1971, but the transcendent experiences he had there continued to resonate throughout his life. Three years earlier, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones had made the trip up an unpaved road to visit the Master Musicians and record an album of their music. Jones’ recording, together with “cryptic allusions” to the village in the writing of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, inspired Palmer to search out the village’s hereditary musical brotherhood. He was exhilarated by the idea of a group of men who “sat around all day playing music... when they weren’t driving possessed tribesmen into mass Dionysian frenzies.” Nor was he disappointed by the reality of the place. In Jajouka, Palmer found, music was the center of communal life, with the power to serve as a “technology” for brining nature’s male and female forces into a “positive and fruitful equilibrium.” Palmer played his clarinet alongside the Master Musicians and felt proud when their leader Jnuin announced, “We have seen you through the music. Now you are one of us.” He returned several times to tap into Jajouka’s baraka, which he described as “spiritual batteries.”

After Palmer died in 1997, a Moroccan necklace he left to his daughter provided the first clue that compelled her to start interviewing family members and friends about what Jajouka had meant to her father. In January of 2006, Augusta Palmer visited the village to reconnect with Jajouka’s spirit and to understand what happened to her father there.

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