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.