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Yo-Yo Ma and Silk Road Ensemble - The Music of Strangers / The Hollywood Reporter

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An unlikely band of collaborators teams with Yo-Yo Ma to encourage cross-cultural connectivity. A first-rate music film capturing a restless desire to communicate beyond the boundaries of any single idiom, The Music of Strangers watches as Yo-Yo Ma, a giant in the world of Western classical music, puts Bach and Beethoven aside to spend time with his multicultural Silk Road Ensemble. Documentarian Morgan Neville is on quite a roll here, debuting two films at TIFF while his widely praised Best of Enemies still lingers in theatrical release. Though this picture doesn't have the element of discovery that made his Twenty Feet from Stardom a box-office hit and Oscar-winner, it will play very well on HBO and is a rich enough experience to benefit from big-screen bookings.

Many viewers will be surprised to hear the cellist speak of never having really committed to music, of having simply "fallen into" the career because his gifts were so obvious in childhood. (We see footage of Leonard Bernsteinintroducing the prodigy on TV at age 7.) Friend John Williams observes that, for a wunderkind, the challenge is finding ways to keep one's interest up, and early in Ma's career he began addressing that question, teaming with everyone from Hot Club legend Stephane Grappelli to the acrobatic vocalistBobby McFerrin in his search for what Bernstein called a universal musical language.

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