The documentary Intangible Asset No. 82, showing at ACMI as part of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival’s Jazz on Film program, follows renowned Australian jazz drummer Simon Barker on a mission to find the 80-year-old shaman drummer Kim Seok Chul – a man Barker believes to be one of the most gifted improvisational musicians ever recorded.

Its title refers to the status given to Kim Seok Chul by the Korean government, recognising him as a protected national treasure. Directed by Australian jazz singer-turned-filmmaker Emma Franz, Intangible Asset has been praised by critics and musicians alike, winning Best Documentary at the 2009 Durban International Film Festival and being hailed by multi-Grammy Award winner Yo Yo Ma as a “a profound and moving film.”

“I worked with musicians for many years, travelling around the world and meeting amazing people and having my horizons broadened by those experiences,” says Franz. “When I shifted into filmmaking, part of it was a desire to tell some to these stories and express some of these experiences… The disparity of lifestyle between a 30-something jazz musician and an 80 year-old shaman was really something where you could show how music can connect people.”

While the pursuit of Kim Seok Chul provides the doco’s thrust, it’s the numerous relationships that grow between Barker and other traditional Korean musicians that sustain it.

From the gifted Korean drummer Kim Dong-Won to Bae Il-Dong, a traditional Korean Pansori singer who spent seven years alone beside a waterfall learning to sing above its great roar, the only common thread between them and Barker is a shared dedication to music and a belief in its universally transcendent ability. That these relationships, however unlikely, continue to propel Barker onwards is what makes Intangible Asset so compelling.

The idea of music as a universal language may be a well-worn truism, however few films manage to demonstrate the phenomenon so plainly and with such impact as Franz’s Intangible Asset No. 82. This is a beautiful film, as emotionally affecting as it is sonically and visually stunning – a truly unique and inspiring documentary.

Intangible Asset No. 82 shows at ACMI Sunday June 5 at 4pm. Simon Barker performs with Bai Il-Dong and Scott Tinkler at the Forum Sunday June 5 at 6pm.

We have tickets to giveaway to this screening on Sunday at 4pm. To win email with ‘Intangible Asset No. 82' in the subject line.