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hearing is believing – a documentary about rachel flowers

I recently saw the documentary “Hearing is Believing,” which is about the musician Rachel Flowers. The movie focuses on how Flowers, who has been blind since birth, became a musical prodigy. Like many films that focus on talented people with disabilities, Hearing is Believing tells you about the challenges she faced as a young person and her success as a musician.

The film is fairly conventional in many ways. Description of the condition that deprived her of sight and testimonials from the family about how they will do the best they can for her. Like many musician documentaries, there’s a lot of talk about how at a very early age (4!), Flowers could accurately play complex classical music. By her teen years, she masted piano, guitar, and woodwinds at a professional level and had begun composing. In the film, she shows mastery of an amazing range of styles, from church organ music to bebop to progressive rock to Hawaiian ukelele.

I agree with critics that the movie rambled a bit and needed a bit more context, but I still liked it. First, Flowers has an inner joy. She loves music and spends much of her time doing workshops with students and she loves it. Second, I think it was fun to see her dabble into the many nooks and crannies of American music. I only think a musician would appreciate, for example, how she was able to replicate Kamasi Washington’s “The Epic” on her home keyboard, or how she could drop in on jazz trumpet master Arturo Sandoval and jam.* It’s also interesting to see how she built a reputation by putting her performances on youtube.

Finally, she’s built a real life and that’s impressive. You may think that Flower’s life is just jam sessions with Dweezil Zappa (yes!) and premiering her orchestral works. But she still goes to a Braille school and needs an enormous amount of help just getting around. Life is hard, but she has a gift and she’s doing the best she can. And maybe that’s the sweetest note she can play.

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* I thought it was interesting that Sandoval was the only person who was really on her level. In true jazz style, they seem to have a cutting session and Arturo gets the upper hand and she just laughs with joy. Later, he actually shows her a little bit about how to improve her piano technique. Neat!

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Written by fabiorojas

June 27, 2017 at 4:16 am

2 Responses

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  1. Fabio -you “got” the essence of Hearing is Believing and the joy the Flowers family exudes. An inspiring film about finding the great within the small. A perfect foundation to bring the polymath musician and composer, Rachel Flowers’ music to the world. With champions like you surrounding her there’s only possibility. “Watch, hear, be moved, and believe”, a quote from Maria Walley’s review in Verify https://verilymag.com/2017/06/rachel-flowers-music-documentary-netflix-hearing-is-believing-06262017

    Like

    Patti Channer

    June 27, 2017 at 4:39 am

  2. Good to see others digging the film. Thanks for reading!

    Like

    fabiorojas

    June 27, 2017 at 4:48 am


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