When watching the The “Socalled” Movie, the first thought to cross your mind may well be— what a likeable guy! Documentarian Garry Beitel, who was a guest at the NYJFF in 2003 with his film My Dear Clara, returned with this portrait of the artistically fearless klezmer hip-hop artist Socalled, aka Josh Dolgin —pianist, singer, arranger, rapper, producer and composer (and also a magician, filmmaker and visual artist).
But it’s not just klezmer that Socalled plays – it’s clever klezmer. He’s blasting through boundaries that separate music styles from different cultures, eras and generations. He lets them meet, harmonize and befriend each other. Socalled is not out to be political – but he does hide subtle messages in his music, sending them out through the musicians he works with such as the jazz and funk trombonist Fred Wesley and the clarinetist David Krakauer, among others. “Its not political, its not religious, its just music. … the politics are that people should get along with each other,” he says in the film.
Shot in Socalled’s Montreal neighborhood, where Hasidic Jews and hipsters crowd the sidewalks, and in New York, France and Ukraine, The “Socalled” Movie is a multifaceted depiction of inspiration, collaboration and transformation. In making this film Garry Beitel explained during the Q&A that he tried to “bring the forgotten music, in a different and contemporary form, to the audience.”
Socalled has performed all over the world, from Canada, to the U.S., Europe, off the coast of Madagascar, China and at The Jewish Museum in 2008. He said that sometimes he struggles to focus, yet hard-won intensity is there for all the world to see. And I believe the work he has done is impressive.
Aaron Galliner, 2011 Blogger and Festival Volunteer