Martin Rosete’s 2009 short film Basket Bronx sees Alex, a young kid from the Bronx dreaming of playing basketball but he obviously lacks the confidence to achieve his dreams. Bullying from a group of older kids doesn’t help his self-esteem. But the appearance of Kiat, who’s well-versed in the ways of Zen philosophy, teaches him to overcome his self-doubt paving the way for a showdown with the neighbourhood bullies. The film received a whole series of awards at various film festivals when released, including one for composer Lucas Vidal (nominated for Breakout Composer of the Year in 2011 by the International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA)) who received recognition for his beautiful and sympathetic orchestral score that focuses on Alex’s journey to self-confidence.
Composer Lucas Vidal’s music first came to my attention in 2011 with his accomplished score for the Spanish horror/thriller Mientras Duermes and his more recent scores to major studio projects such as The Cold Light of Day and The Raven have confirmed the quality of this composer’s work. Vidal’s 8-minute score, though short, features a strong and expressive theme around which the whole score revolves. Heard immediately in the opening title track (“Basket Bronx”), the theme (heard on piano) makes plain that this film will be one of emotional depth. Over the next 8 minutes Vidal’s theme for Alex is moulded and formed to mirror the depths of his own self-doubt before emerging stronger after his encounter with Kiat. A heartbreaking rendition of the theme on cello in “Lonely Boy” powerfully portrays Alex’s dejection as he returns to his home in a run-down neighbourhood of New York after his initial encounter with local bullies. The skill of Vidal is shown in this same cue as he goes on to show a glimpse of Alex’s latent inner resolve as he walks to school after having missed his bus.
The emotional power of Vidal’s score (and theme) is highlighted in “Alex and Kiat” which underscores a sequence where Kiat helps Alex improve is self-esteem through a series of tasks. We again hear the theme on solo strings but this time the higher register of solo violin and the inclusion of the orchestra adds a more positive tone and the cue as a whole mirrors the increasing confidence of Alex. We don’t actually see Alex succeeding in any of the tasks set by Kiat, but it is the music that expresses his growing confidence in his own abilities. With the climax of the film, where Alex has the expected run-in with the neighbourhood thugs (“Overcoming His Dream”), it is Vidal’s music which dictates the pace and emotion of the final showdown. Gentle statements of the main theme rather than an orchestral climax accompanies this final encounter, with the music almost coming to a complete stop as solo piano plays as Alex finally realises all that he has been taught. The full orchestral ensemble then plays a full statement of the theme as the film fades to black and the end credits roll. This final musical climax does not accompany the (surprising) final scene. Rather, by waiting until the credits play, the music is a much powerful statement of Alex’s epiphany, highlighting Alex’s new potential in life. If the music had have climaxed as part of the drama Alex’s success may have just been confined to this isolated incident depicted in the film itself.
For me, although the score runs to less than 10 minutes, it is Vidal’s strongest score in terms of musical impact. Vidal’s music is the emotional heart and adds an depth to the inexperienced actor’s performances. This is a welcomed release and highlights the merits of searching composers’ back-catalogue who come to prominence. Basket Bronx is available from the iTunes store.
Audio samples can be found HERE.
- Basket Bronx (0:52)
- Lonely Boy (1:23)
- Meeting A Friend (1:06)
- Alex and Kiat (1:35)
- Overcoming His Dream (2:53)
Running Time: 7:51
MuMo Records (2009)