“MUSIC is a fundamental part of education. It's an emotional pursuit, it's a physical pursuit, it nourishes your soul. It also teaches you courage and how to communicate. It's everything.”
They're strong words, spoken by one Karen Carey, who has wielded the Director of Music baton for 20 years at MLC Burwood, an independent Sydney girls' school, and now stars in the fly-on-the-wall documentary, Mrs Carey's Concert.
First-time feature-length doco director Sophie Raymond has teamed with AFI award-winning director/producer Bob Connolly to make a charming film that may well be one of the year's top little surprises, much like that other quirky gem of a few years ago, Spellbound, about the emotional rollercoaster that is the spelling bee.
The film follows the cranky Carey as she oversees the Biennial MLC Opera House Concert, which takes 18 months of intense and “tedious” (as our resident rebel, Iris, keeps reminding us) preparation.
Carey rules with a Margaret Thatcher-like iron fist - there is even a slight, uncanny physical resemblance to the Iron Lady - as she tries to get her talented young charges to reach their full potential while also having the challenging task of ensuring the co-operation of the entire 1200-strong student body.
At times, it appears akin to an uproariously funny Chris Lilley mockumentary - as if waiting for Summer Heights High's flamboyant Mr Gee to waltz in and join the colourful cast of almost comical characters.
But there are touching and tender moments that makes this such gratifying viewing, like learning of virtuoso violinist Emily Sun having lost her father - a composer, violinist and conductor - when she was just five.
“When people go through trauma, they feel emotion more. I think if my dad was still here, I wouldn't be able to play the violin like I do.”
MRS Carey's Concert (G)
Directed by: Sophie Raymond and Bob Connolly
Starring: Karen Carey, Emily Sun, Louise Keller
Rating: Four stars
Reviewed by: Emilia Vranjes