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'Botso' an inspiring lesson in endurance and optimism

'Botso' an inspiring lesson in endurance and optimism
A scene from "Botso." (Cinema House Films)

Talk about a life well lived. For Wachtang Korisheli, the star of the embracing documentary "Botso," that would include surmounting a tragic past to become a beloved musician, sculptor, educator and family man. Perhaps most inspiringly, Botso, as he's been called since childhood (it means "young steer" in Georgian), is still going strong at age 92.

Director Tom Walters and writer Hilary Grant pack a lot into this film's brief running time as they relate their subject's remarkable tale: Botso (pronounced BOAT-zo) grew up in the Soviet republic of Georgia, flukily survived the scourges of both Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin (though Botso's actor father did not) and as a young man, fled Europe for New York, where he studied music. Botso later moved to Los Angeles (living for a time in actress Janet Gaynor's beach house — fun story) and eventually settled in Morro Bay.

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Walters engagingly captures Botso teaching music, sculpting, conducting, spending time with his wife and young daughters and even traveling back to his Georgian hometown of Tbilisi. The energy, dedication, kindness and optimism he displays are truly infectious.

The movie features warm interviews with Botso's family members as well as an array of past pupils, a number of whom, including acclaimed conductor Kent Nagano, went on to notable musical careers.

BotsoFest, a tribute concert reuniting Botso and his former students, lovingly concludes this fine portrait.

"Botso."

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes.

At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.

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