Top 5 Music Documentaries To Watch at WOMEX

Womex Film Documentary program 2023 Jorane Castro Beto Martins. Music Press Asia

Terrua Para is a music documentary selected for screening at WOMEX's film program 2023. Image by Jorane Castro & Beto Martins.]

Strengthening conversation between the global music and film community.

WOMEX is officially open to the public starting today. Rich in culture, its program is worth some indulging in before you make the decision to attend. But if there’s anything that is worth going to, it is the film screenings of its 18 music documentaries.

The selection of documentaries portray music, movements and histories from across the world at a time that is as turbulent and testing as ever.

The programme is an opportunity for filmmakers, artists, producers and distributors to reach new markets and explore additional distribution and production channels.

Here are Music Press Asia’s top five selection to watch at WOMEX.


Saigon film by Mike Pham Anh Phi Tran WOMEX. Music Press Asia
[Saigon film by Mike Pham Anh Phi Tran screening at Film Room at the Palexco in Galicia’s WOMEX festival 2023. Music Press Asia]

Directed by Mike Pham & Anh Phi Trần. The film is commissioned by NTS and presented by Nhac Gãy, a Saigon-based party collective and label with a rave spirit and a playful mindset, founded in 2019 by Anh Phi, Linh Ngô, Celina Huynh, Thao Vu and Mike Pham. It is directed by two of its members, Mike Pham and Anh Phi.

Kẹo Kéo – Sài Gòn Sound is a short-documentary film capturing a glimpse of Saigon street sound. Huynh Thanh Hau is an electrician turned singer from Mekong Delta who moved to Saigon to become a kẹo kéo singer – a vanishing form of street performance that is central to the city’s nightlife.

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Directed by Jorane Castro. Screenwriter and director Jorane Castro was born in Belém (Amazonia, Brazil), where she founded Cabocla Filmes. She has directed more than 20 films, all set in the Amazon, such as Para Ter Onde Ir and Mestre Cupijó E Seu Ritmo. She is working on her next feature film, Laura.

Set in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest, Brazil, the music of the state of Pará is synonymous with lightness and joy. The film recreates this spirit, with each part unveiling the universe where the music of Pará originated.Terruá Pará registers the current moment of cultural effervescence, proposing an integrated look at the artistic movements in Pará. With participating musicians: Dona Onete, Manoel Cordeiro, Keila, Pio Lobato, Toni Soares, Os Amantes, Luê, and Trio Manari, among others.

Title: Woven Sounds

Woven Sounds film by Mehdi Aminian WOMEX. Music Press Asia
[Woven Sounds film by Mehdi Aminian WOMEX. Music Press Asia]

Directed by Mehdi Aminian. Besides being a recognised composer, multi-instrumentalist and ethnomusicologist, Mehdi Aminian is the initiator of Roots Revival, within which, since 2013, numerous musical projects based on intercultural exchange have been developed. He is also an ethnomusicologist with active academic research documenting various musical cultures and vanishing musical cultures in particular.

Woven Sounds documents the intangible cultural heritage – the music styles – surrounding the process of carpet weaving in Iran. Naqshe Khani (patterns singing) is a mechanism of singing the patterns of a carpet to other co-weavers. To this date, no documents, studies, or presentations on this topic could be found, and this film is the first attempt to document this rapidly vanishing intangible cultural heritage.

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Title: Minarets

Directed by Nadya Bhimani Perera. Born in 1981, Nadya Perera is an independent researcher and film maker from Colombo, Sri Lanka. Her fiction and documentary works have been showcased at local and international film festivals.

Minarets is a conversation on sonic landscapes and forms of listening and performing; The universality of music and how it’s perceived within different factions of a community; Ideas and beliefs on what is sanctioned sound-and cultural politics within the local music scene in Sri Lanka.

Title: Spivanka

Spivanka by Peter Braunig film WOMEX23. Music Press Asia
[Spivanka by Peter Braunig film WOMEX23. Music Press Asia]

Directed by Ganna Gryniva and Peter Bräunig.

Spivanka is the journey of the jazz singer Ganna Gryniva travelling from Germany to Ukraine to follow her roots, unveil the magic of the old Ukrainian folk songs, and get inspired by them in her own music.

Bräunig is a Magdeburg based director and cinematographer for documentary film. His recent works are different documentary web series (Die Stimme Der Dinge) and films for Doctors Without Borders all over the world.

Gryniva is a singer, composer, pianist, and activist from Berlin. Having roots in Ukraine and Germany, Ganna aims to bring into play her multicultural background as a means of unveiling her musical identity and promoting her motherland’s cultural heritage. Her album Home is a collage of arranged Ukrainian folk songs that Ganna collected during her travels through different regions of Ukraine.

For the full documentary screening list, visit WOMEX’s official website here.

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