Review: ‘Learning From Light: The Vision of I.M. Pei’

"Learning" balances its PR take on what is likely Pei's last great building.

Verging on a promotional film for the Museum of Islamic Art, “Learning From Light: The Vision of I.M. Pei” balances its PR take on what is likely Pei’s last great building with a consideration of Pei the artist, architectural philosopher and technician. Filmed at age 92 and displaying bountiful energy, Pei views this as his personal project to comprehend the complexities of Islamic art and architecture. That aspect gives the doc some cultural weight during these tense times, making it a certain educational item in fests and tube play.

Pei comments profusely on camera about his obsession with geometric forms, explaining that these are the building blocks for most of his work. Space, light and movement — and the most important is space, says Pei of his three primary values, though it’s the light of Doha, the capital of Qatar, where the museum is situated on a man-made jetty surrounded by water, that greatly concerns him. Having schooled himself on Islamic architecture, Pei plunges into the logistically difficult project, over which he seems to sweat much less than his visibly taxed supporting team. Stiff v.o. narration is a minus.

Learning From Light: The Vision of I.M. Pei



A Slickrock Films presentation in association with the Qatar Museums Authority. Produced by Bo Landin, Marianne Landin, Sterling Van Wagenen. Executive producers, John Lochner, Abdulla Al Najjar, Van Wagenen, Bo Landin. Directed by Bo Landin, Sterling Van Wagenen. Written by Landin.


Camera (color, DV), Jens Jansson; editor, Michael Fox; music, Yo Yo Ma, Silk Road Project. Reviewed at Palm Springs Film Festival (True Stories), Jan. 12, 2010. Running time: 84 MIN.


Narrator: Mark Van Wagoner.
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