Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel earned his reputation as a child prodigy with leading prestigious symphonic groups such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic. To the orchestras he leads, Dudamel is a living thread, his signature curls bouncing with every wave of the wand. And when the music stops, Dudamel turns his passion for his profession into advocacy, supporting programs that help young Venezuelan musicians develop professionally.
The documentary “Viva Maestro” follows Dudamel and combines vérité recordings of him during rehearsals with interviews in which Dudamel explains how orchestras can help young people create a more beautiful world.
The film begins in 2017, when the political and economic struggles in Venezuela put an end to Dudamel’s planned tour with the Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, the country’s first youth orchestra. Dudamel leaves Venezuela and the orchestra’s tour is cancelled, forcing the young members of the Bolivars to join millions of protesters on the streets of Venezuela. But Dudamel continues to fight for his musicians to perform, and organizes international concerts to keep his followers focused on a positive vision for the future.
Dudamel is a cheerfully attractive figure, and the film benefits from following such an amiable subject. But the documentary lacks the precision needed to turn this warm portrait into a true cinematic symphony. The protests in Venezuela mean a major upheaval for Dudamel, even resulting in the death of one of his musicians. But director Ted Braun doesn’t take the time to show the protests or explain what moved them, which is why much of the conflict in the film feels unclear. Braun prefers to listen with love to Dudamel’s musings in interviews. But even the most passionate of speakers can come across as overwhelming with enough repetition.
Not judged. Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes. In theaters.