Robert Palmer was a colorful music critic for The New York Times who authored one of the seminal books about the Delta blues, Deep Blues. He was also, it turns out, a lousy father who abandoned his daughter, Augusta, when she was about one month old. “His life was music,” Augusta reasons in her highly personal documentary that grapples with her father’s legacy. “That didn’t always include me.” And so the director went on her father’s trail, meeting with his string of ex-wives, his mother and artists he’d covered in print. In some of the film’s sharpest passages, Palmer’s work is revisited with animation.
The director’s search eventually brings her to Morocco, along with her infant daughter and one of her father’s ex-wives, where a spiritual Sufi clan plays what may prove to be the most annoying music on earth. The Master Musicians of Jajouka—the famed group behind those unstoppable whining reeds and a favored subject of Robert Palmer—have long been venerated by Western drug aficionados, most famously William Burroughs and Brian Jones. Like so many before her, Augusta Palmer treats her hosts with overstated reverence, which is a shame: Somewhere in this scenario lies a very funny, very strange indie comedy.—Jay Ruttenberg
Opens Fri; Anthology. Find showtimes