ENCOUNTER POINT – Kareem Roustom

Original Review by Alan Rogers

Three years before Syrian/American composer Kareem Roustom scored film director Julia Bacha’s documentary Budrus, he composed an award-winning score for her 2006 film Encounter Point. The film is about members of the Bereaved Families Forum, a group of Israelis and Palestinians who have been touched by the violence in the region and who are part of a growing movement, working together to end the regional conflict and build a lasting peace through non-violent means. The film-makers follow Forum members hoping to show how even with differing attitudes (both within and outside the Forum) it is possible to work together with a common goal of securing a better future. For this score, Roustom fuses together both Arabic classical and klezmer musicians (klezmer is a musical tradition of the Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe) to fashion a score that is much more rooted in the Middle East compared with Budrus.

Roustom’s music is surprisingly upbeat considering the film’s subject matter. It’s not what I would call happy music but there’s an optimism running through a lot of the music that makes for a very enjoyable album. The heavy use of Middle Eastern percussion and tempo is a main driver for this upbeat quality, and the inclusion of additional instruments such as clarinet adds melodic lines that enhance the positive tones. The “Main Title” and tracks such as “Windows – Ruti” showcases how these two aspects of the score meld together to good effect. Tracks where ethnic percussion alone provides the music are particularly memorable: “Seeds of Peace 1” and “Driving With Ali” have an inherent power that is immediately apparent even though the tracks themselves are relatively short. Over half of the tracks on the album are under one minute in length and this does tend to break up the listening experience. But as the film is a documentary a significant proportion of Roustom’s music is probably used to set scenes or as transitions between scenes and so short, bridging tracks would be necessary. Bu the music is so listenable that their short playing time does not really matter. 

The film’s subject matter means that Roustom’s music cannot be without some level of sadness associated with it and this more reflective, perhaps even mournful, music seems to be associated with Robi Damelin, a mother whose son was shot and killed by a sniper. “Robi’s Story” features a theme – played on guitar with the support of a small string ensemble in relatively low register – that is probably the point at which the score is at its most emotional. It is interesting to compare “Robi’s Story” with “Robi’s Letter” (the penultimate track) where now, in the latter track, guitar and strings play a melody that is more optimistic in outlook, reflecting perhaps serving as an example of the journey of the various individuals featured. This optimism is carried over into the “Epilogue” and the end of the score. Some mention should also be made of “Burnt Onions” as this seems to be quite different from the rest of the score. Beginning with electric bass guitar and brushed percussion sounds, the track becomes a 5-minute piece for a small ensemble of musicians (with particular emphasis on solo violin) that seems to take an idea/melody and runs with it. It would be interesting to know how this fits into the film.

Roustom’s music for Encounter Point has several similarities to his later score Budrus. But with Encounter Point there’s more of a concentration on the geographical region as evidenced by his concentrated use of both regional instruments and tempos. As with Budrus, this is an immensely listenable score with some stand out tracks: my particular favourites are those that feature ethnic percussion (e.g., both “Seeds of Peace” tracks) and show Roustom’s talent at injecting an emotional depth to his music (e.g., “Robi’s Story”). Encounter Point is a very enjoyable album that can be quite moving but the main feeling is a sense of optimism in the face of adversity. Encounter Point is available from various online stores as a digital download.

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

Rating: ***

  1. Checkpoints (1:33)
  2. Main Title (0:53)
  3. Robi’s Story (1:21)
  4. The Right To Hate (0:28)
  5. Sabr il-Mazloum (0:45)
  6. Seeds of Peace 1 (0:24)
  7. Sami’s Story (0:56)
  8. Sami In Prison (0:57)
  9. Windows – Ruti (0:30)
  10. Seeds of Peace 2 (0:32)
  11. Christine (1:43)
  12. Tzvika At Kogal High School (0:35)
  13. Driving With Ali (0:27)
  14. Windows – Aziz (0:19)
  15. A New Problem (0:39)
  16. Al-Jazeera Interview (0:47)
  17. Burnt Onions (5:09)
  18. Jumping The Wall (1:48)
  19. Shlomo’s Story (3:38)
  20. Watching The Checkpoint (0:46)
  21. Robi’s Letter (1:47)
  22. Epilogue (5:11)

Running Time: 31:19

Just Vision (2007)


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