Captivated by the songs of the Bayaka pygmies, New Jersey-born ethnomusicologist Louis Sarno followed the exotic melodies to their Congo River basin source more than two decades ago and ended up canceling his return ticket.
But Sarno's new life among those hunters and gathers is just one side of the intriguing story told by "Song From the Forest," a strikingly poetic documentary that illustrates the push and pull of life's opposing forces.
The second part makes good on Sarno's promise to take his 13-year-old son, Samedi (by his Bayaka ex-wife), on a trip to America, with the trek from the lush rain forest to the urban jungle of New York City creating a telling portrait that has as much to do with parent-child relationships as it does with clashing cultures.
For his feature directorial debut, German author and journalist Michael Obert obligingly interviews Sarno's contemporaries (including his former roommate, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch), but it's the film's gentle artistry that casts an evocative spell.
By juxtaposing those Bayaka chants and ambient sounds over images of the Manhattan skyline or, conversely, that cacophonous big-city dissonance against those still, lush Central African backdrops, Obert stirringly bridges the seemingly incongruent worlds calling to the man caught between them.
"Song From the Forest"
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.