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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Roaring Abyss
Roaring Abyss
Other // Unrated // June 20, 2017
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted February 24, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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Roaring Abyss:

For those wondering, the roaring abyss isn't a negative thing or a weird name, as some reviews have mentioned. I'd reckon it's a call-out to the Kingdom of Abyssinia, now known as Ethiopia, and that roaring you hear is all the powerful music coming from the African nation. Though it may be hard to draw a bead on what type of movie Roaring Abyss is exactly, it's a fantastic piece of art, and Highly Recommended for fans of world music.

Director Quino Pinero collects numerous field recordings from throughout Ethiopia, weaving them with day-to-day footage to create a tone-poem of hypnotic and at times rapturous beauty. Yet somehow, calling this a tone poem seems a disservice, possibly relegating Roaring Abyss to the realms of art-house cinema, when it should be seen more widely than that, and screened by anyone seriously interested in music, Ethiopian culture, or simply looking for something refreshing and uplifting.

Pinero mimics the intricate rhythmic motifs found in many of his recordings, using multiple cameras to intercut shots with dynamism. Sharp editing makes these recordings visually engaging, while subtly revealing the personalities of his subjects; from Street-Preacher type vocalists to marching band members, on-lookers, choruses, hand-clappers, defenders of ancient instruments at risk of being lost in time, and young folks continuing musical traditions with modern instruments.

Throughout, scenes of everyday life in Ethiopia, and brief interview segments from the many musicians on hand, create something of a narrative throughput, even if that narrative is only that of the transformative, vital, and invigorating nature of music-making. When people get together to enact positive efforts (such as those who helped crowd-fund this project, all of whom deserve big thanks) then wonderful things happen.

Roaring Abyss refers not to a screaming void, but to the potent tumult of sounds both new and old, coming from the Kingdom of Abyssinia, otherwise known as Ethiopia. Quino Pinero's field recording documentary takes an artistic layperson's approach to the many types of music presented. Those with a scholarly interest will surely be inspired to dig deeper, but everyone who loves world music will be hard-pressed not to get up and dance along with each number. Part documentary, part tone-poem, Roaring Abyss is a fantastic piece of art, and though the DVD presentation is limited to the movie and its trailers, it's Highly Recommended.

The DVD

Video:
Presented in color, in a 16 x 9 ratio image, Roaring Abyss looks OK. Detail levels are mostly acceptable for DVD, and reflect the in-the-field nature of the filming process. Colors are rich, look natural, and are deeply saturated. Compression artifacts don't appear to be a problem, though details do get crushed a bit in darker scenes. There is a fair amount of blurring or ghosting associated with moving forms during many parts of the movie, so much so that it appears to be a stylistic choice. Whether it is indeed intentional is currently an open question, and if so, it's up to the individual viewer to decide whether it's effective. It didn't affect my enjoyment of the movie, though it made me wonder.

Sound:
The Stereo Audio track comes through loud and clear, replicating the music nicely, with a wide dynamic range, nice placement of the instruments, and no degradation or distortion. Interview subjects are equally well-represented and easy to hear. Subtitles appear when needed.

Extras:
Extras are limited to a Theatrical Trailer and a Teaser Trailer.

Final Thoughts:
Roaring Abyss refers not to a screaming void, but to the potent tumult of sounds both new and old, coming from the Kingdom of Abyssinia, otherwise known as Ethiopia. Quino Pinero's field recording documentary takes an artistic layperson's approach to the many types of music presented. Those with a scholarly interest will surely be inspired to dig deeper, but everyone who loves world music will be hard-pressed not to get up and dance along with each number. Part documentary, part tone-poem, Roaring Abyss is a fantastic piece of art, and though the DVD presentation is limited to the movie and its trailers, it's Highly Recommended.

- Kurt Dahlke

~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com

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