"The intersection between spirituality and world­music is pinpointed in "Sound of the Soul,” a handsome documentary about the Fez Festival in Morocco. The event, which takes place annually in the North African city renowned for its history of tolerance, offers attendees a platform where they can tie together music and faith as a universal bond. The main attraction is the lineup of frequently astonishing acts glimpsed and (more importantly) heard. They range from ethereal Irish vocal group Anuna and mournful Portuguese singer Katia Guerreiro to choirs devoted to early Euro­Russo sacred music. Groups from outside the West are often intensely rhythmic and ecstatic, though most raucous is New York City brass band Sons of Thunder. There's great sonic variety among the Moroccan acts alone. Wide­format DV lensing and sound recording are first­rate.”

Dennis Harvey



"The global rise of religious fundamentalism and its frightening effect on international politics can make mutual respect and dialogue between people of different cultures and faiths seem like an impossible dream. But as this thoughtful documentary shows, music is a language that is understood by every faith. A moving testament to the healing power of music, Sound of the Soul offers a microcosmic vision of what a culture of tolerance can achieve and gives hope that such an approach might spread to the world outside Fez.”

Kellen Quinn



"There's a moment in "Sound of the Soul” when you stop looking at the subtitles. You don't need them when the Frasa Group from Morocco works itself into a frenzy of spiritual chanting, shifting forcibly from one note to the next in near unison. No matter your religion or lack thereof, it's no longer about the words or deities or beliefs, but rather the transcendent power of music.

Director Stephen Olsson wisely trains his cameras on the musicians in action, often giving them three or four uninterrupted minutes to play…The film works best in the musicians' own words about why music truly is the universal language of mankind, as Henry Longfellow once wrote. Mauritanian singer Dimi Mint Abba says, "What I think about really depends on the song I am singing. I have conversations with God.” Or Mohammed. Or Allah. Or Buddha. It's practically all the same to these musicians, and that's why their songs never get lost in translation.”

James Reed




"This film is a well­needed reminder that religion and spirituality cannot be divorced from the human experience. And in the face of all the violence done in the name of religion, this movie makes us remember that even though the words are different, often times we are singing the same song.”

Alana B. Elias Kornfeld



"Nothing here for rap fans, but if you appreciate the choral tradition then this film will be as edifying as it is a wonder to listen to. Most of the group performances are captured in outdoor venues or well­lit indoor spaces and sometimes the brilliant native costumes prove as visually persuasive as the music. In between numbers, director Stephen Olsson's camera explores the Holy City of Fez in Morocco with its 9th century Andalousian mosque, famed Ŕl Karaouiyne University, and Medina market district filled with world­renowned singing craftsmen. Part ancient city excursion and sacred music showcase, this film has much to offer perceptive audiences.”

Alana B. Elias Kornfeld



"A concert film, a travelogue, a history lesson, a mild-mannered homily, Olsson's work is a grand upper…pulling together Berber women, a fabulous Portuguese Fado singer, a French early­music ensemble, players and vocalists from Afghanistan, England, Russia, Ireland, Mauritania, Turkey and finally, a gospel band from New York City.

Ecstatic Sufi performers dominate the concert, but the sound, the music, the "message” are all suffused with sincere expressions of love and longing, against a great heritage of tolerance, an ancient sanctuary for people of different faiths. Yes, it's about time again for a dose of this artless art, these legions of Candides, whistling in the dark about the best of all possible worlds.”

Janos Gereben



"A documentary that is crying out for a soundtrack CD, local filmmaker Stephen Olsson's 70­minute visit to the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music is a unique look at an Arab city (in Morocco) that is tolerant and progressive…The highlight is the music, from New York City to Africa to Russia to Ireland.”

G. Allen Johnson



"Stephen Olsson's film aspires to be much more than a record of Morocco's Festival of World Sacred Music…All of it is lovely and all of it is acoustic…everything we hear is truly a people's music rooted in daily lives of struggle. It's thus akin to America's lost folkloric music, as found in the hollows of Appalachia and on Southern backroads before transistor radios and American Idol homogenized everything…Sound of the Soul reaches and holds a high note.”

Greg Rickman



"Part travelogue, part primer on world religions, part concert film, Sound of the Soul delivers a powerful and timely message to a world increasingly seized in the paralyzing grip of self­destructing partisan (East and West) fundamentalist­fueled strife. Against awe­inspiring visuals, the sacred music traditions unfold.”

Les Wright



"The movie bathes the viewer in a sumptuous symphony of color and texture, from the performers' gorgeous outfits to the images of the markets, shrines, and surrounding landscape. The musical excerpts are the icing on the cake.”

David Prince


(return to top)


CEM ProductionsThe Video ProjectSpecialty Studios LinkTV