They Came to Play

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They Came to Play (2008)

Directed by Alex Rotaru

Alex Rotaru went from Romanian award-winning child actor, to MIT graduate, to documentary film maker. This is one of several films he has made during his short directing career. His other films include Shakespeare High and Kids with Cameras.

This 2008 documentary follows a number of contestants in the Fifth International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs, hosted by The Van Cliburn Foundation. Among the contestants are architects, dentists, lawyers, and AIDS patients, just to name a few. The film looks at who these people are and what has motivated them to join this competition. The film also looks at the strategy and competition involved in one of the most prestigious amateur piano contests.

The real highlights of the film come from the stage. These are amateur piano players only by the loosest of definitions. Each of them has mastered the instrument and the music of the masters. Throughout the film these musicians play pieces by Beethoven, Chopin, and a number of other great masters.

The weakness in this movie is the pace. The personal stories of the contestants are interesting, but the film spends too much time on them. I think this would have been a better film had they introduced more of the contestants and spent more time with the music. This doesn’t ruin the movie, but it definitely left me a little disappointed.

I love music, so this movie was enjoyable for me on many levels. For myself the human interest side of the story was really secondary to the talent displayed by many of the contestants. If you’re a fan of music, I would suggest that you take the time for this movie. I give this one 3 out of 5 stars.

Rating: PG

Running Time: 91 minutes


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