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My friend Bri and I love watching movies and then talking about them together. We’re always on the lookout for something new to discover, and I won last week when I first heard about BALI: Beats of Paradise, which opens in theaters November 16! It spotlights pioneering Indonesian composer, Nyoman Wenten, who spent most of his life spreading the beauty and mystery of Balinese music and dance across America. Shot mostly in Bali by director-producer Livi Zheng, the film encapsulates the brilliant scenery of the island as well as the authenticity of Balinese culture and Gamelan music. Known as the music of Indonesia, Gamelan (pronounced Gah-Meh-Lahn) typically uses bronze, iron, bamboo or wooden bars, as well as bronze and iron gongs, gong chimes, cymbals, bells, and two-headed drums to create a unique shimmering sound. After 40 years of teaching Gamelan throughout America, and giving thousands of performances all over the world, Wenten wanted to leave something special behind before retiring to Bali. Coincidentally, Grammy Award-winning singer Judith Hill was looking for a distinctive sound for a new piece of music she was composing. She was intrigued by Gamelan music and approached Wenten to discuss the blending of musical styles.
As Hill and Wenten worked in the studio on “Queen of the Hill,” a song blending funk and Gamelan music, they wanted to take their collaboration one step further – a music video. As with the fusion of two musical styles, Hill and Wenten wanted the stark background of the desert with the beautifully colored traditional Balinese costumes. Shot in Southern California’s Joshua Tree Desert, the music video is a kaleidoscope of funk and traditional Balinese dance and costumes showcasing Hill’s ethereal vocals.
For a sneak peak of BALI” Beats of Paradise, check out the movie trailer!
I had the good fortune to be involved with a phone interview and this is what they had to say about how they came up with the idea for the film!
Moderator: I know you touched on this in the film a bit. But why don’t you tell us just, in your own words now, how did the subject matter of the film first come to you? How did you… Was it the music video first or the documentary first? How did the project begin?
Livi Zheng: Okay. So, last year, the Indonesian Consulate asked me to film a Balinese Gamelan concert. So, I said yes because I love filming, I love film making, film is my first love. And when I arrived at the concert, it was a full house and I saw how the audience reacted to the music. And it really inspired me to make this a feature film and make it something bigger. And then, so basically after the concert, I edited it. And then once the concert coverage on YouTube and it got really good feedback, we got press from all over. Internationally, as well. And it got quite a lot of views in a short amount of time and I really felt like, at the time, I have to make this a feature film. So, then I started the documentary, we went to Bali, filmed in Bali and then after that, along the way, I met Judith. So, do you want to talk a little bit about that?
Judith Hill: Yeah. So, I met Livi for interesting reasons. I was also putting together this big show called The Golden Child. It’s a musical that basically brings culture together. And I was really… I’ve always been such a fan of Balinese Gamelan music and dance and so I was looking for unique collaborations where I can infuse different cultures and style. And I was introduced to Livi by a mutual friend and we just clicked immediately. And she told me about her documentary and how she’s doing this documentary on Balinese music and was also interested in collaboration of different styles of music so that’s kind of how we came together.
Livi Zheng: Yeah. So, Judith became a part of the documentary because… So, I introduced Judith to Wenten because Wenten is a Balinese dancer all over the U.S. He’s performed in Walt Disney Hall and he’s collaborated with a lot of artists and he also teaches in several universities, including UCLA and Harvard [PHONETIC]. So, Judith and Wenten met and Wenten has been in the U.S. for 40 years and he’s going to retire. And he wanted to leave a legacy. So then he had an idea to do a music video with Judith and have me direct it and that’s Queen of the Hill. So, he wanted a fusion between pop music and Balinese Gamelan with Balinese costumes and it’s very colorful and everything. And so the music video is already launched, it’s now on YouTube. It has over a million views and the music video Queen of the Hill is also featured in the documentary Bali: Beats of Paradise.
BALI: BEATS OF PARADISE had its world premiere at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, CA on Wednesday, November 7 and will subsequently open in theaters in Los Angeles and New York on November 16 followed by one night only screening events in select cities across the country.
Don’t forget to like the BALI: Beats of Paradise Facebook page! for updates!
You can find out more information about the cast and crew of BALI: Beats of Paradise on IMDB.