David Byrne Ilé Aiyé (The House Of Life)

This is only one of three films directed by Byrne; the other two are the feature True Stories (1986) and his own solo concert film Between the Teeth (1994). In between he made this 50-minute documentary on the Brazilian religion of Candomblé at a time when the Talking Heads were disintegrating and wondering why he'd rather immerse himself in South American religion than tour their final album. Perhaps sensitive to the politically correct huffing of the times, Byrne is completely absent from the film, choosing a "show don't tell" approach to this indigenous culture. This works for and against the film — while it's an interesting challenge for the viewer to piece together the meaning of the footage he juxtaposes, ultimately his DVD commentary track and the accompanying essay by Luc Sante are far more illuminating when it comes to understanding this unique religion. It is through his commentary that we learn why the people bathe themselves in popcorn (to symbolise cleansing themselves from smallpox and leprosy scars, which popcorn resembles), why the local men's club dresses in turbans and call themselves the Sons of Gandhi, and why Santa Barbara is the patron saint of both firemen and transvestites. As an ethnological exposé, however, Byrne does capture some fascinating footage of the religion's musical ceremonies, where the women enter a gentle trance state much less threatening than what we know of Pentecostal possession. This ritual provides the film's climax, without voiceover, no context needed, a world away from the pop stardom Byrne was fleeing at the time. (Plexifilm/Sonic Unyon)