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They Came to Play (2008)

Henri Robert Delbeau , Mark Fuller , Alexandru Rotaru  |  NR |  DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Henri Robert Delbeau, Mark Fuller, Clark Griffith
  • Directors: Alexandru Rotaru
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: November 16, 2010
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003X3BYHY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,631 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews


Professional musicians, actors and other performing artists, when they get to talking about their work, can, let s face it, be kind of boring in a self-absorbed, detached-from-reality way. That s what makes They Came to Play, a beautifully executed documentary about the Van Cliburn Foundation s Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs, so refreshing. The classical pianists in this contest play at a near-professional level, but when they talk about their work, the jobs involved are a bit more down to earth: ophthalmologist, dental assistant, jeweler, tennis coach.

The film, by Alex Rotaru, chronicles the 2007 edition of the competition, which is held in Texas and open to those 35 and older who do not play professionally. (It has run on an irregular schedule since it started in 1999. The next one, in May, will be the sixth.) Some contestants have had advanced musical training; others have developed a natural talent mostly on their own. The proficiency they display at the keyboard is thrilling to see; whatever your own hobby is, you are likely to be awed by how much better these people are at theirs.

Mr. Rotaru paces the film perfectly, mixing performance footage with scenes of the competitors talking about their lives and the role music plays for them. And, just as admirably, he never tips his hand as the competition s elimination rounds progress. When the victor s name is called, you can feel the joy and surprise that must have gone through the concert hall and the winner. --THE NEW YORK TIMES - Chronicling the Cliburn Amateur Contest By NEIL GENZLINGER

A welcome twist on the now-ubiquitous kiddie competition doc, They Came to Play centers on the Van Cliburn Foundation's gathering of the world's best amateur pianists over the age of 35. "Amateur" is a word that makes most of the entrants bristle; it's also a semantic point of entry for director Alex Rotaru's gentle inquiry into the egalitarian nature of art and the compromises made for a life that involves regular meals. Rotaru chooses to focus on a handful of the 75 participants who are, yes, quirky, but also wildly talented and divergent in background. For some, like a French former Wimbledon competitor and two doctors, their musical talent is an extension of freakishly accomplished lives; for others, like the former coke addict and HIV-positive man mourning his lover, music is both escape and savior. The martial German physicist simply seeks perfection for perfection's sake. Rotaru has to regroup when several of his primary subjects are eliminated in the first round, but there is continuity in his focus on the emotions and eccentricities that infuse each player's performance with something beyond technique. The bittersweet refrain is that even such brilliant pianists could only make a hobby not a life of their gifts. --THE VILLAGE VOICE - Piano Lesson for the Middle-Aged Amateurs Among Us in They Came to Play By Michelle Orange

Product Description

Sometimes, life comes between us and our dreams. And sometimes, we are fortunate enough to be reunited.

Multi-award winning THEY CAME TO PLAY focuses on the International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs (hosted by the Van Cliburn Foundation), which gathers together 75 of the world s best amateur pianists for one week of intense competition and camaraderie. Candid interviews offer a glimpse into the lives of the competitors, who come from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions. All have struggled to balance their music and their ordinary lives some overcoming extraordinary challenges and now, all hope to make years of dedication pay off in the performance of a lifetime.

Overflowing with the talent and enthusiasm of the competitors and with the sound of their spectacular music, THEY CAME TO PLAY reminds us all of the passion that burns within us.

DVD Features: Extended Performances

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
I have been playing piano for 35 years and I had never heard of Amateur piano competitions. Competitions were the participants are over 35 years of age. I saw this wonderful documentary about three months ago in Chicago and its was thrilling to see people from all walks of life playing at such a high level although piano was not their livelihood. All the participants share such a profound love and practice 4 hours a day for years in preparation. It has now served to get me to think along the same fashion. May 2011 is the next competition, thats too little time for this preparation but the following competition I hope to be a participant. Thanks you for this marvelous motivating documentary. Many will be inspired to follow their dream and challenge there talents.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful documentary film June 2, 2011
Format:Amazon Instant Video
Ten non-professional pianists over 35, compete in the Van Cliburn Piano Competition at Texas Christian University. Expertly filmed, the movie is about these amateurs who gave up music to pursue careers in business and medicine, only to return for this intense competition. As entertaining as the piano playing is, the intimate portraits of the competitors is equally so; a Haitian American doctor, a Russian refugee, an Alabama ophthalmologist, a graduate of the Air Force Academy, an Aids sufferer, a French woman tennis instructor, an engaging and funny Moldavian woman, a jeweler with rings on his fingers, and more.
And the winner is....
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great documentary for piano lovers February 13, 2011
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I watched this originally on Netflix and then bought the DVD for a family member because I knew they'd love it. If you enjoy piano music, and know how hard it is to become good at it, you shoud really enjoy this.

It is amazing to see just how outstanding these amateur pianists are and how they take on this competition. I also found it very hard to discern who I would have chosen as the winner, since so many of the competitors were so good.

I highly recommend this to piano lovers.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and entertaining June 7, 2011
This is a very artful and yet entertaining documentary. I loved it for both the human interest stories (such a fascinating cast of characters, many of whom had gone through some real trauma in their lives), and the passionate and mostly excellent playing. It also inspired me to start practicing piano seriously again, after neglecting it for years (as many of the participants in the video also had, but they learned it's not too late to resume). The editing is really good, because sometimes interviews in documentaries can be boring, but not here. I really enjoyed also how they involved families and friends, not just the performers, because that really enriched the humanity of the film. And the bonus features (several complete pieces by the semifinalists and finalists) are also very good. Hats off the Lori Miller for this labor of love.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They Came to Play December 26, 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Brought too you by the folks who made Note by Note the building of a Steinway piano.. This DVD is just wonderful, any classical piano lover will want this in their collection, so much more so if you are learning to play.. I hope they will produce one of these each year Van Cliburn holds the competition.. well worth the purchase price...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unqualified Delight August 12, 2011
If you love classical piano music this one is a must see. It has great music, exciting piano playing, features fascinating and diverse personalities, and has an excellent picture with very gratifying reproduction of the sound of a Steinway concert grand piano.

I was unaware this competition was even taking place but am very happy to see such talented musicians from all over the world given the opportunity to compete and perform. The production and direction of this documentary is beautifully done and involves the viewer in the excitement and growing tension as the competitors prepare and play. What was interesting to me was the diversity of the backgrounds and experiences exhibited by the various competitors.

The story was focused on several different pianists who would eventually move on in the competition to the semi-finals and some to the final round. They were so different it was easy to find one you liked the best; there was something for everyone. It was exciting for us when the one we picked as our favorite won the competition.

They Came to Play is fun, entertaining, and captivating; it makes for a great evening's entertainment. I recommend it highly.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great fun. May 14, 2011
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
My husband and I, both piano players, watched this documentary and loved it. So interesting to see how these performers have a full-time job and still make time to practice piano playing. Also bought this for my mom to send as a Mother's Day gift, she is a music teacher and loved it too. If you like to play the piano, this will inspire you to practice again.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best movies I've seen in 25 years December 19, 2011
By Tom G
I realize that the title of this review might be seen by many as over the top. Maybe I'm a 99.5% outlier. All I can say is that when my wife and I saw this film in a community theatre, the emotion that rose up in me was overwhelming. These are real people, not actors, that probably had something to do with it. Not only were all of the competitors excellent musicians, but they were giving everything they had, almost every spare moment, to trying to create the most evocative performances of so many varied pieces.

The camera angles add a lot: we see the faces of several of the best performers, very closely, as their emotions change second by second, with the changes in the pieces they play. I learned many new pieces. For many of the performers, we get a few minutes to know their stories, before their performances. People from all over the world, e.g. a former top tennis player in France, a retired physicist in Germany, you get to know some pivotal parts of their lives, enough to make you want to root for all of them in the competition. I'm still in awe that I can feel so much for people who get so little time on screen.

My wife and I bought 8 DVDs that night, given to friends in Holiday season, and I arranged for 2 showings in local venues as well.

If there is any chance in the world that you might be held in awe by exceptional piano pieces played wonderfully, by people whose love for the music is obvious, this must be the next DVD you see.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Some really great pianists that have been hidden from view
Just wild!
Some really great pianists that have been hidden from view.
All of them entertaining, some astonishing, some jaw-dropping. Read more
Published 1 month ago by DR. CARSON TODD
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great piano music
Published 2 months ago by Howard M. Ellis
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful music!
This is a documentary of the 2007 Van Cliburn amateur piano competition in Texas. If you love music, especially piano, you will love this DVD. Read more
Published 4 months ago by S. Taipale
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely glimpse into this competition~
They say that amateurs make sometimes the best musicians. I am not sure this blanket statement applies to all who are portrayed in this documentary,but certainly to some. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Sanda S. Clark
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
Great documentary. Edited very well to bring out thrill of the event and the hearts of the participance without drowning on.
Published 17 months ago by Jaklyne
This video makes you want to clap for joy. Music is magic and these so called amateurs demonstrate that magic in spades as they play for joy of it. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Richard J. Welander
4.0 out of 5 stars Spellbound with Grownups
Loved seeing adults following a passion. Loved the variety of people focused on. Loved that I became fond of people I initially didn't care for.
Published 19 months ago by SunnySD
5.0 out of 5 stars Very inspirational
I would have preferred more playing and less chit chat but I thoroughly enjoyed the process.

The movie does a good job of showing how much dedication, hard work, and... Read more
Published 19 months ago by sceptic
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly impressive and talented players
It amazes me that these people all have "day jobs" and families, and still manage to reach such a high level of competence and artistry. Wonderful documentary. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Tigster
4.0 out of 5 stars movie - They came to play
An entertaining documentary with naturally humorous characters though by the end, there is a hint that despite the opening suggestion that the competition is accessible to all... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Amazon Customer
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