Thursday , April 18 2024

SXSW Film Review: World Premiere of ‘Resynator’

Alison Tavel’s documentary about her efforts to bring her late father’s invention back to life is a profoundly moving journey.

Alison never knew her father, Don. He died at age 36 when she was just 10 weeks old. As she grew up, though, she kept hearing stories about her dad’s musicianship and creative genius. She knew he had created a synthesizer called the Resynator in the late ’70s, and spent the rest of his life trying to get it to market.

When she found Don’s original prototype in her grandmother’s attic, it became her mission to bring the Resynator back to life. This triggered an adventure she never expected—a journey that would help her to understand the father whose life she had missed out on.

Don Tavel

Visiting his relatives, she begins to uncover an unexpected portrait of the man. A genius, certainly, but not without his flaws. When she meets Don’s twin brother for the first time, he says: “Listen…this is your father’s voice. See these hands? These are your father’s hands.” It’s quite affecting. Even her mother reveals some surprising secrets that she’d kept hidden away for years.

With the help of Don’s former colleagues, Alison gets the Resynator working. Her goal is to exhibit it at the same trade show her father attended decades before. She’s heartbroken, however, when she gets there and the machine refuses to work.

Vintage Tech Revival

Certainly Resynator isn’t without its jubilant moments. When the synthesizer is repaired (again!), Alison brings in some musician friends to jam with it. They’re all blown away by the device. Fred Armisen even comments that it has a voice.

Her journey takes her around the world. She goes to London to talk to Peter Gabriel, who fondly remembers the Resynator. In Colombia, she meets with synth guru Christian Castagno, who brings his musician friends over to perform along with it.

The film is well constructed, mixing vintage and contemporary footage with Danny Madden’s marvelous animation. There are several cinematographers — Justin Key, Max Cutrone, David Yeaman and Beth Cloutier. This is probably due to the length of time it took to make the film, and all the globe-hopping. Kathryn Robson and Chris Gibson’s editing is kinetic, and Chris Ruggiero’s fine score contains Resynator cues, of course!

This is what good documentary filmmaking is all about. Resynator premiered at SXSW on Sunday, March 10. It encores March 13 and March 16. Check the Resynator website for showtimes and locations.

Photos courtesy Resynator LLC

About Kurt Gardner

Writer, critic and inbound marketing expert whose passion for odd culture knows no bounds.

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