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A Voice from Heaven

The untimely death of leading world music star and premiere qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in August, 1997, demanded some sort of film tribute, but "A Voice From Heaven" --- even in its interim life on digital video prior to producers' plans for a 35mm transfer --- is not up to Nusrat's musical stature. Serviceably presenting both the background of qawwali and its deep roots in ancient Sufism, docu suffers from an unreasonably fragmented format which offers only glimmers of Nusrat's astounding perfs. Fans will thus be underwhelmed, dampening word-of-mouth for film's future life in music film fest haunts.

The untimely death of leading world music star and premiere qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in August, 1997, demanded some sort of film tribute, but “A Voice From Heaven” — even in its interim life on digital video prior to producers’ plans for a 35mm transfer — is not up to Nusrat’s musical stature. Serviceably presenting both the background of qawwali and its deep roots in ancient Sufism, docu suffers from an unreasonably fragmented format which offers only glimmers of Nusrat’s astounding perfs. Fans will thus be underwhelmed, dampening word-of-mouth for film’s future life in music film fest haunts.

In a roundabout way, Italo-born, L.A.-based filmmaker Giuseppe Asaro explains how Nusrat built upon 1,200 years of Sufi tradition with trance-inspiring qawwali as its musical missionary and brought it to a much broader international public than the Farsi-lingo sounds ever had before. Interesting contrast is made of auds in the Western world (such as at UC Berkeley) with devout Pakistani Sufis, but reluctance to simply show extended perfs from both Nusrat and son Rahat is serious drawback. Commentators abound throughout pic, but key Nusrat supporter Peter Gabriel is inexcusably AWOL.

A Voice from Heaven

(DOCU)

Production: A Crossmedia Communications production. Produced by Alessandro Sforza, Giuseppe Asaro, Shafiq Saddiqui. Co-producers, Vikas Bushan, Ian Fletcher. Directed, written by Giuseppe Asaro. Camera (color, digital video), Asaro; editors, Asaro, Tom Acito; music, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Farrukh Ali Khan; sound, Acito. Reviewed at AFI/L.A. Film Festival (Documentary Series), Hollywood , Oct. 28, 1999. Running time: 80 MIN.

With: With: Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Farrukh Ali Khan, Dildar Hussein, Rick Rubin, Michael Brook, Talvin Singh, Bally Sagoo, Iqbal Nagibi, Imran Khan, Lubana Saeed.

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