Yo Yo Ma stands waiting in the wings, a string of self-effacing jokes muttered under his breath making light of his host’s introductory remarks. Before the opening credits draw to a close, we’ve been treated to a sprightly, open-air performance ensemble by the film’s actual stars: a group of musicians — all with different roots in folk — who travel the world to create and stage new music. Oh, were this but a documentary portrait of the enduring cellist, or even a concert film. Anything but propaganda for longhairs. The premium cable channel production touts Ma’s global project, The Music of Strangers, but as storytelling, it amounts to nothing more than an infomercial with “Aren’t we all wonderful?” as its subtext. Commendable intentions be damned; one can’t hear the music for the self-applauding. Archive the HBO broadcast on your DVR until the device reaches full capacity and automatically erases it to make room for more shows. Morgan Neville directs. (2016) — Scott Marks
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