Monday, March 08, 2010

Complaints Choir

On Saturday, I screened the documentary Complaints Choir.

A Finnish couple (Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen) thought it would be interesting to direct energy that we typically use to complain for a greater purpose. Their idea was to create a chorus of folks airing their grievances, big and small, then hold performances under the name "Complaints Choir." They were right: it was interesting.

What makes the experiment so compelling is the vast difference between how communities and countries react to it. Us Americans, of course, have no trouble listing out things that bother us and shouting it at the top of our lungs. Heck—we're practically famous for our loud mouths. But when the 'tour' arrives in Singapore, the tunes take a different turn.

Recruiting for the choir was not too difficult. Though folks were hesitant to admit fault with their lives publicly, many still stepped forward to do so. Some even seemed to be creating a makeshift therapy session for themselves.

Like the Yankees, these folks had minor complaints (waiting in lines, inconsiderate people) and major complaints (government, family), and were willing to sing about them in equal measure. But when rehearsals were well underway and the local police caught wind of what was about to take place, they forbid the singers from performing under threat of arrest. It seems free speech is not a privilege Singaporeans are allowed to enjoy.

So now their complaints are merely immortalized on the official film site and in this documentary. And Singapore appears to be humorless and really, really oppressive. Their government clearly did nothing to dispute this portrayal.

The Complaints Choir has since expanded to over 20 countries so far (some that we would have assumed similar to Singapore in restrictions, but weren't), and the idea is catching on. The organizers offer how-to instructions about creating your own on the film site. This particular documentary only focuses on the Singapore and Chicago choirs, but the spirit of the movement is captured well.

And after you see it, you'll leave wanting to craft a song about your problems each time they arise.


No comments: