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At a Sydney girls' school, music director Karen Carey prepares her students for a concert at the Opera House. Believing in the transformative power of great music, Carey insists upon a classical repertoire, sets a dauntingly high standard and requires the participation of every girl in the school. Carey inspires many of her girls, but not everyone shares her passion; her principal antagonist is 16 year old Iris Shi, waging open warfare against authority. Emily Sun is Carey's star musician - a gifted but troubled teenager on the threshold of a brilliant musical career if only ... Karen wants Emily to solo in a Bruch Violin Concerto. But to bring out her best, she needs to keep the girl from going off the rails, and then get inside her head. That proves no easy task, because young Emily has her own distinctive take on everything.

Review by Louise Keller:
The passion that music teacher Karen Carey feels for her music is contagious in this rousing and inspiring documentary in which all 1200 students are required to participate in a classical concert at the Sydney Opera House. While music is the driver, the film is about much more than Brahms, Ravel and Verdi. Filmmakers Bob Connolly and Sophie Raymond have created a wonderfully uplifting film with drama, passion, conflict, angst and elation exposing the students to a journey of self discovery. With Mrs Carey as the catalyst, the focus falls on two girls: a violinist who wants to be the best she can be and a rebel who doesn't want to participate.

To Mrs Carey, music is a fundamental part of education and she makes no apology for pushing her students. It's everything, she declares, explaining her belief that it is the pursuit of the intellectual, the emotional and the physical, and teaches courage and communication. Not forgetting how it nourishes the soul. While musicianship begins with musical talent, the film concentrates for the most part on the psychological issues around performing, rehearsing, wanting to co-operate and be part of the process as the countdown to the all-important concert begins.

Taking a fly-on-the-wall approach, Connolly and Raymond simply observe what transpires. This is Connolly's first documentary in 10 years, his last being Facing the Music, which he co-directed with his late wife and partner Robin Anderson. Can talented violinist Emily Sun become disciplined and reliable enough to be leader of the orchestra? Can Mrs Carey inspire the insolent Iris Shi, who dishes out attitude on a daily basis? With superb editing, the rhythm of the drama unfolds.

There are personal stories as we hear about the students' backgrounds and as a consequence, we get to care about both the students and the teachers. There are moments of doubt, tears are shed and tempers are frayed. Then it's time for the concert and it is Emily's moment in the sun as the spotlight falls on her. But what of Iris? Is she able to be part of the team for this one event? Mrs Carey's face, as she watches the concert, is telling.

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(Aust, 2011)

CAST: Documentary featuring Karen Carey

PRODUCER: Bob Connolly, Helen Panckhurst

DIRECTOR: Bob Connolly, Sophie Raymond


EDITOR: Sophie Raymond, Ray Thomas, Nick Meyers

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra: April 28, Brisbane: May 5, 2011

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