Sound of the Soul
Religious tolerance is in short supply in many critical areas of the globe but in Fez, Morocco, the tolerant atmosphere is palpable. Perhaps the most vivid example of religious pluralism in that Moroccan urban center is the annual Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, known as "the Fez." This week-long event brings together musicians from throughout the world who represent many spiritual paths.
Fez is a 1,200-year-old city long known to be a center of Sufi spirituality. The camera in this new documentary wanders through the narrow alleyways of Fez and focuses on singers, musicians and dancers ranging from Japanese drummers to the Irish vocal group Anuna to African berber women to a Harlem brass band. In this cinematic journey through the ancient North African city, whirling dervishes circle endlessly and a French early music group sings 12th century chorales.
Award-winning filmmaker Stephen Olsson shot the festival in 2002 and 2004 and this hour-long documentary captures the spirit of its founders, Dr. Faouzi Skali, a Sufi professor of cultural anthropology, and Mohamed Kabbai, a member of Morocco's Royal Cabinet, who came up with the idea of "the Fez" in response to the Persian Gulf War more than a decade ago and to growing religious intolerance. Musical vignettes are intercut with discussions by scientists, spiritual leaders and philosophers attending the festival.
As an Afghani sings during the festivities, "Music is the sound of the soul."