FILM REVIEW – “HEARING IS BELIEVING”, Berkeley Times – Oct. 20, 2016
In an age when social media has popularized one-minute vids about people with disabilities overcoming obstacles, so much so that the community has dubbed a new term for this novel form of dehumanization and objectification – “inspiration porn,” Berkeley audiences should be thrilled by the screening of Lorenzo DeStefano’s new film “Hearing is Believing,” a feature documentary about the life of music prodigy Rachel Flowers, who happens to be blind. Even so, this film is not so much about a person struggling with obstacles or their disabilities. Rather, this documentary tells the story of a super-gifted human living in relative obscurity while striving to establish a career as a professional musician. And because DeStefano makes no attempt to deify the subject of his film, that’s exactly what we witness – the god given musical talent of Rachel Flowers as she yearns for a regular (and paying) gig that would afford her a life away from her family home in Oxnard, California.
Flowers’ story is narrated not by an omniscient voice but by her many collaborators; and it shows her before, during, and after all sorts of rehearsals and performances (on piano, flute, voice, guitar), ranging from a solo of an original composition at a local, half-empty church to a cameo stage appearance with Dweezil Zappa at his Las Vegas rock show. Most haunting of all is Flowers’ high-pitched giggle, which she seems to emit when surprised by the beauty of her own musical creation; and how loudly she slurps her favorite food, Campbell’s Chunky Sirloin Burger Soup.
“Hearing is Believing,” winner of the BVFF Grand Festival Award for Best Music Documentary, will be screened on Saturday, Oct. 29 at 7:15 p.m. and Sunday Nov. 6 @ 5p.m. Tickets are $15, subscribers of Berkeley Times get $5 off; other discounts apply for seniors, youth, and people with disabilities. The East Bay Media Center is located at 1939 Addison St. (below Milvia) in the Arts District of Downtown Berkeley. For more info, go to www.Berkeleyvideofilmfest.org.