Celebrated Argentinian singer-songwriter Leon Gieco gathers a troupe of disabled musicians, piles them onto a big pink bus and revs up for a road tour of Argentinian provinces in “Mundo Alas: An Alternative Tour,” a docu he conceived as part of the project with vet filmmakers Fernando Molnar and Sebastian Schindel. Few of the artists know each another at the outset, and the evolving group dynamics are such that they break out of their cocoons through social and musical outreach. Inspirational docu opens with a live concert Aug. 6 in Gotham, before moving on to probable longevity in educational and performance-themed venues.
The filmmakers introduce the artists separately in their home surroundings. Gieco, who previously collaborated with many of the performers, functions as the group’s common denominator; some recruits have lived or worked together before, such as the tango dancers with Down syndrome from the Amar School. Others, like gifted blind singer Carina Spina, have never ventured far from home. Though they exhibit giddy feelings of sudden self-empowerment with let’s-put-on-a-show euphoria, there is nothing non-pro about their level of talent.
Guitarist-singer-songwriter Alejandro David has collaborated with Gieco many times, and their duets rank among the pic’s highlights. David’s skill is unaffected by his encephalitis (which has so far required 17 operations, he reveals with a smile). On the other hand, Demian Frontera, an athlete before an accident paralyzed him from the waist down, owes his whole unique career as a modern dancer to his disability: He incorporates gymnastic wheelchair maneuvers into intricate pas de trois with graceful ballerinas. And then there is Pancho Chevez, the singer/harmonica player without hands or legs whose music makes appendages appear irrelevant.
Pic’s one uncomfortable note is the presence of armless painters who create instant canvases inspired by the music, their brushes held between teeth or toes. Unless music-synched painting counts as a little-known Argentinean tradition, turning it into performance art, based solely on the oddity of the execution, registers as off-puttingly tokenistic.
The filmmakers at first allow only glimpses of the various acts when first conceived and rehearsed, the artists gaining in mastery and confidence, and playing off each other’s strengths. “Mundo” saves the full effect for dramatically lit performances at stopovers along the road, climaxing at the jam-packed Luna Park arena in Buenos Aires.