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A Concerto is a Conversation

By Liam Trump | May 1, 2021

HOT DOCS FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! A Concerto is a Conversation is a deep look into the bond that composer Kris Bowers has with his 91-year-old grandfather, Horace Bowers Sr. Within the mere 13-minute runtime, directors Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers show Horace Bowers Sr.’s tale of success in a world that puts up constant barriers for black Americans in their journey to achieve greatness.

Starting with how Bowers Sr. grew up in the 1940s Florida, it’s blatantly clear that being a black man in America will be a key idea going forward. As Bowers Sr. tells many anecdotes from his past, one thing is clear: he had to work tirelessly for everything. From living in Florida to Denver to Los Angeles, Bowers Sr. powered through adversity to make a name for himself.

The story, shown through a conversation between Kris Bowers and Horace Bowers Sr., couldn’t have asked for a more genuine narrative platform. The chemistry that the two of them have feels real and heartfelt, completely unscripted. After hearing that his grandfather would be dying soon from cancer, Bowers made it his goal to learn about his family’s history and immersed himself in his grandfather’s life. What he discovers is a tale of success. The career paths of the two family members mirror each other in that they’re both black men who achieved success in America. They’ve each found glory in their respective fields.

“…Bowers made it his goal to learn about his family’s history…”

Still, the weaker elements of A Concerto is a Conversation are noticeable to the point where they distract from its better qualities. The close-up reactions are jarring and make certain points of the conversation feel thrown together and unnatural. Also, because of the runtime, there’s never a real chance to delve into the complete life of Horace Bowers Sr. and see more of his admittedly interesting past. Even so, the two subjects of the documentary make it so that every minute with them is meaningful.

The music is one of the most prominent pieces in A Concerto is a Conversation. Composed by Kris Bowers himself, the score subtly sets the tone whenever it is used. His composition is the glue keeping the film together and is never overt when it comes to revealing the significance of Kris Bowers’ concerto. When it comes to the rest of the execution, cinematographers David Bolen and Brandon Somerhalder give the movie a beautiful look. The way they utilize the color palette is terrific and adds an extra layer to the film.

The history presented through the back and forth conversations between Kris Bowers and Horace Bowers Sr. are worthwhile and truly show the power in perseverance. The drive that these two men have for success is inspiring to say the least. Not a minute is wasted in A Concerto Is a Conversation as the subjects’ personal connection with each other is established from the outset and their respective lives are engaging. The documentary spotlights that hard work is necessary to succeed in America, and Kris Bowers and Horace Bowers Sr. are living proof of just that.

A Concerto is a Conversation screened at the 2021 Hot Docs Film Festival.

A Concerto is a Conversation (2020)

Directed: Ben Proudfoot, Kris Bowers

Written: Ben Proudfoot

Starring: Kris Bowers, Horace Bowers Sr., etc.

Movie score: 6/10

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