Paul Smaczny
Germany 2005 | 114 Min. | DigiBeta, OmU

Daniel Baren­boim and the West-East­ern Divan Orches­tra

Togeth­er musi­cian Daniel Baren­boim and Pales­tin­ian lit­er­ary the­o­rist Edward Said pur­sued the seem­ing­ly utopi­an idea of peace­ful coex­is­tence in the Middle East. The two found­ed the West-East­ern Divan Orches­tra in 1999, bring­ing togeth­er young musi­cians from Israel, Pales­tine, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Europe. Direc­tor Paul Smaczny fol­lowed this spe­cial orches­tra for seven years, from its begin­nings in Weimar all the way to its tri­umphant con­cert in Ramal­lah in the summer of 2005.
KNOWLEDGE IS THE BEGINNING is not simply a musi­cal por­trait of young ide­al­ists. The film also illus­trates the dif­fi­cul­ties faced by the young musi­cians, and how the wider polit­i­cal real­i­ties impact their every­day lives and work. Fol­low­ing their rehearsals and con­cert tours, the youths must return to a world shaped by bomb­ings and mil­i­tary attacks, in which the cit­i­zens of neigh­bour­ing coun­tries are fre­quent­ly con­sid­ered ene­mies. The ten­sion they are sub­ject­ed to in their work is enor­mous, as the sur­round­ing con­text of polit­i­cal stand­off is ever present and con­tin­u­al­ly seeps into their dis­cus­sions out­side of rehearsals. Nev­er­the­less, their shared goal gives rise to a com­plete­ly unique dia­logue that tran­scends the bound­aries of ideology. 

Despite count­less orga­ni­za­tion­al and polit­i­cal hur­dles, the orches­tra achieved the impos­si­ble by play­ing in Pales­tine in 2005. The live con­cert from Ramal­lah drew world­wide atten­tion, reach­ing far beyond musi­cal cir­cles. Smaczny’s film has received numer­ous inter­na­tion­al awards.