Two-time Oscar-winning director Allan Miller takes us behind the scenes to explore the mysterious art of conducting. The documentary film follows GRAMMY®-winning conductor Jeannette Sorrell– one of today’s most interesting conductors and a vivid interpreter of baroque and classical music. Sorrell, told by the Juilliard School and The Cleveland Orchestra that no one will hire a woman conductor, forms her own Baroque orchestra, Apollo’s Fire, to immediate acclaim.
The film shows Sorrell working and teaching at the Aspen and Tanglewood Music festivals, and includes rehearsal scenes with two GRAMMY®-winning orchestras – Apollo’s Fire and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. The role of the conductor as storyteller emerges as Miller pursues the secrets of a conductor’s art.
Commercially released in June 2023
NOW AVAILABLE on AmazonPrime, Tubi TV, Apple TV, and YouTube
READ THE REVIEWS
“Sorrell is magnetic…. Seeing her guide musicians through the delicate art of conducting, how to bring out a composition’s emotions, is where the conductor shines brightest. A captivating documentary... Jeannette Sorrell is a beautiful, passionate subject… should not be missed.”
– Film Threat, 2023 | read the full review
“Miller allows his subject to tell her own story while letting his audience experience her talents through fly-on-the-wall moments during the orchestra’s rehearsals. No need for directorial trickery. Jeannette Sorrell, her intoxicating spirit, they’re all that’s needed. It is fascinating to see her working her way through a complicated score. Sorrell’s style (as is her personality) is delicate and kind. To watch her conduct, and play, is magical.”
– Screen Comment, 2023 | read the full review
“An exciting conductor turns an often rarefied topic into a lively experience in Playing with Fire… an insightful profile of a knowledgeable and passionate artist. The story of conducting within the story of this conductor culminates in beautifully edited and vividly recorded concerts. The “burningly clear conception of what every note means and how they relate to each other,” which Sorrell summarizes as part of the conductor’s work, remains an unspoken constant… beside her musicianship and sheer presence.”
– Early Music America Magazine, 2019 | read the full review
“Illuminating… If you’ve ever wondered why orchestras need conductors and what, exactly, takes place on that podium, “Playing With Fire” will answer all your questions. It dwells on what makes Sorrell unique as a leader, on her way of sculpting and shaping and getting to the dramatic heart of every phrase. The film also takes viewers as far as possible inside Sorrell’s mind as she studies a score and affords a seat in her conducting master-class at the Aspen Music Festival. The soundtrack, simply put, is stunning.”
–The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2019 | read the full review
April 28, 2022 – 10:00pm
WVIZ-PBS television broadcasts and internet streaming
December 16, 2021 – 6:00 & 8:00pm
THE THALIA THEATER AT SYMPHONY SPACE
2537 Broadway, NYC
A live Q&A with Ms. Sorrell follows the 8pm screening.
October 6-11, 2020
CHAGRIN FALLS, OH
Chagrin Documentary Film Festival
Gala Festival Opening, Tuesday, October 6
Festival Opening with champagne, refreshments, and a much anticipated documentary: Playing With Fire – Jeannette Sorrell and the Mysteries of Conducting. Tickets $75 per car.
September 10-13, 2020
THE BERKSHIRES, MA
Berkshire International Film Festival
June 25, 2020 – 7:00pm
International Classical Arts Film Festival – Jarvis Conservatory
Live Q&A with Jeannette Sorrell & Director Allan Miller
Saturday, April 25, 2020: 8:00-8:45pm
Sunday, April 26, 2020: 4:00-4:45pm
April 16 – April 28, 2020
Cleveland International Film Festival
PREMIERED OCTOBER 25-31
Cinéma Village | 22 E 12th St, New York, NY
View Schedule (multiple showings each day)
Special Private Event Screening
Friday, October 25, 7:00pm
Followed by Q&A with Jeannette Sorrell and film director Allan Miller.
Allan Miller has been called “America’s foremost filmmaker of documentaries on classical music” by the New York Times.
He has produced and directed over 35 films and television programs around the world. He has won two Academy Awards: best Feature Length Documentary for his 1979 film FROM MAO TO MOZART – Isaac Stern in China, and in 1975, THE BOLERO, best short feature, with Zubin Mehta and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. SMALL WONDERS, the story of a violin program in the public schools of East Harlem, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1996 and made into a major motion picture starring Meryl Streep. In 2001 he directed THE TURANDOT PROJECT, the making of the Puccini opera in Beijing under conductor Zubin Mehta and staged by legendary Chinese filmmaker, Zhang Yimou.
In 2010 he directed YOU CANNOT START WITHOUT ME, a film about conductor Valerie Gergiev, following his rehearsals and performances in Russia, the UK, and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. In 2012 he directed I SING BEIJING, a film about young western opera singers in China learning to perform in Mandarin. His previous film, SPEAK THE MUSIC, explores the life of Robert Mann, his fifty-one years as founding first violinist of the acclaimed Juilliard String Quartet.
©2019 The Music Project for Television, Inc.