BUDRUS – Kareem Roustom

Original Review by Alan Rogers

Budrus is a 2009 Israeli/Palestinian/American documentary film directed by Julia Bacha that follows the non-violent demonstrations conducted by the residents of the Palestinian town of Budrus during the early 2000s in protest at the planned Israeli security barrier to be built around the town. The barrier would separate the town from land and olive trees important for the town’s economy and history. Containing contributions from both sides, Bacha manages to provide a testimony to the power of peaceful protest and gives a film that many reviewers agree manages not to take sides.

Syrian/American composer Kareem Roustom is an Emmy nominated composer who has composed a score that reflects the film’s ability not to take sides by giving the film a musical score that does not provide too much of an emotional input to the film. With cues such as “The First Demonstration” and “Girl Meets Bulldozer”, where you would expect in a drama there to be music that emphasises aspects such as the courage of the downtrodden against the aggressor in any other “us versus them” conflict, etc, Roustom chooses to underscore these scenes with quiet almost reflective music that uses the various parts of the musical ensemble to provide a backdrop to the situations. Roustom’s musical upbringing is based in the musical traditions of the Arab Near East and, together with his Western music training, he is at home both scoring the film with music that gives a strong sense of place (relying on what sounds like instruments such as the buzuq (a long necked lute), tablah (a small hand drum) and daff (a type of tambourine)) and giving the music a Western feel also – a small string ensemble and acoustic guitar features prominently in a significant proportion of the score. 

The score does contain music that does have an overt emotional feeling. Tracks such as “A Common Understanding” and “Victory For Budrus” add a sense of optimism, with an upbeat tempo that blends both the Western with the Middle East. The final cue, “Dabke For Budrus and End Credits”, sustains the upbeat mood to end with, providing a sense of celebration – perhaps of the success of the non-violent protests (a dabke is a popular folk dance of the region that is widely performed at functions such as weddings or other celebrations.)

Roustom’s relatively short score for Budrus (just over 30 minutes in length) is enjoyable. It does not offer the emotional highs and lows that a dramatic film score can (or some documentary scores that attempt to wring an emotion out of the viewer/listener), but it does give an authentic sense of place. But, for anyone still hoping for an emotional pay-off, there is the reward of the celebratory final 2-3 cues. Budrus is available as a digital download at the usual online outlets.

Audio samples can be found HERE and then click on arrow next to running time for samples of entire album or individual tracks.

Rating: **½

  1. The Road To Budrus (0:23)
  2. Building Barriers (1:29)
  3. Someone’s Been Hit (2:43)
  4. The Women Arrive (0:42)
  5. Uprooting Trees (3:16)
  6. The First Demonstration (0:47)
  7. Did You Uproot My Olive Tree? (1:09)
  8. In Came The Bulldozer (0:45)
  9. Girl Meets Bulldozer (1:01)
  10. Left On The West Bank (1:02)
  11. A Common Understanding (2:14)
  12. From Wedding Hall To Prison (1:28)
  13. Pushing Back (0:29)
  14. School’s Out Early (1:54)
  15. Under Curfew (0:54)
  16. Tearing Down The Fence (1:42)
  17. Broken Fence, Open Road (1:29)
  18. Victory For Budrus (2:33)
  19. Dabke For Budrus and End Credits (5:15)

Running Time: 31:24

Layali Music Publishing / Just Vision Inc. (2011)


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