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By Amy R. Handler | March 1, 2014

When two Austrian musicians decide to take a hiatus from life as they know it, and go on an eight-month tour of Latin America, they have no idea that their little adventure will change their lives forever.

Stefan Lechner’s debut documentary, El Rey (The King), follows the filmmaker and his longtime friend, Adi Hirzer, as they make their way through Mexico on a rickety school bus purchased on eBay. Both men are musicians and fellow band members. Their goal in taking the trip is to meet as many Mexican musicians as they can, and jam with them. A profoundly simple idea that could open a world of possibilities—or something else…

El Rey is a wondrous little gem of a movie with mesmerizing strength. This is interesting considering it’s not about all the usual things one would expect from a documentary these days. El Rey’s main theme, and also its key player, is music. The power and glory of music has long been recognized by musicians and a chosen few since the beginning of time, but how many people realize that music, by its very essence, can assuage poverty and injustice, and can even avert wars? Lechner and Hirzer’s discovery of music’s intrinsic magic parallels that of the people indigenous to Mexico. The result of this breakthrough is astounding, considering the world we live in.

I must say that I liked everything about El Rey, and this in itself is shocking, considering my accustomed guardedness when it comes to documentaries and their reviews. What I find most intriguing, aside from the varying landscapes and its people, is that the format and general mood of the movie doesn’t look or behave like a documentary. Instead, El Rey has the feel of a very strong and believable narrative film, with an uncanny power to take us into its action. The result of this royal illusion is that we feel sad when the movie ends and we’re forced to exit the bus and go home, wherever that may be.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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