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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Sound, Light and Beauty
by Misha Zubarev

Music by Prudence, a bitter-sweet documentary, should serve as an inspiration to all of us. Prudence Mabhena, lead singer for the band Liyana, has never experienced a typical childhood or teenage life. Such things as walking in the park, playing sports, or even wrapping her arms around the neck of a loved one have been outside of her natural abilities. Being born with a rare congenital disorder called Anthrogryphosis, which affects the growth of bones and joints, she's been confined to her wheel chair for as long as she can remember.

However, when Prudence closes her eyes -- and with the utmost lightness of being -- begins to sing her enchanted tunes of life, it’s as if every fiber of her body heightens itself to a level most of us would only dare to dream of. And she wishes to share her songs as well as the beauty that lights her up inside with the rest of the world. As fate would have it, her wonderful tunes and lyrics make an unforgettable imprint in our ears.

Roger Ross Williams, the film’s director, was inspired by the tremendous talent and dedication of this Zimbabwean native. He traveled several times to and from Zimbabwe before obtaining the completion funds needed to wrap up the story, which took about five and a half months.

Shot on a shoestring budget with a volunteer crew and a donated HVX200, thanks to docs co-producer Patrick Wright, Williams manages to tell a very powerful, moving and uplifting story. He carries our emotions through the use of smart editing and sound mixing, never giving his film a dull moment. The beautiful nature exteriors of Zimbabwe add to the film’s story, but more importantly the location itself plays a very big part of the storytelling as a whole. In a third world country like Zimbabwe, any deviation from the norm of physical attributes is considered witchcraft, and Prudence was believed to be ‘not human’ by her countrymen. Still, her singing gave the people of Zimbabwe a new light.

After watching this film, I couldn’t help feeling inspired by Prudence and the light emanating through her voice. It’s like a sound resonating with the innermost secrets of the world, breaking all laws of time and space while traveling from a place so far beyond us – and yet so close to our hearts.

This splendid film received the 2010 Oscar for Best Documentary Short.

(Released by Home Box Office; not rated by MPAA.)

Listen to a Movie Addict Headquarters interview with filmmaker Roger Ross Williams on Tuesday, July 6 (2010) by clicking here.  

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