American banjo player Béla Fleck plays with musicians in Uganda, Tanzania, The Gambia and Mali. Busy making new friends and documenting recording sessions en plein air, neither Fleck nor director Sascha Paladino make time to scope out their cultural surroundings. Music is the main focus for these co-producers of a trans-cultural road trip and jam. “Throw Down Your Heart” does manage to tuck in a little tribal and historical detail. The title, we learn, was the plaint of new slaves upon first seeing the ocean and realizing they would never again see their homeland. Too bad the musicology of the African diaspora and the American roots of the banjo are not traced. For once, I’d welcome a knowledgeable talking head. In English, French, Lusogan, Swahili, Jola, Bambarra and Swahili. With Haruna Walusimbi, Oumou Sangare, Anania Ngoliga, The Jatta Family, Djelimady Tounkara, Bassekou Kouyate, and others playing xylophone, akonting, and guitar; and drumming and singing. Fleck will play a mini-set and take questions after Sunday’s 8pm with a special admission. 97m. (Bill Stamets)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.