Ben Niles’ documentary Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037 tracks the creation of a single grand piano, from the day a group of strong-biceped men molds the frame at Steinway’s Queens factory to the late-stage fussing over strings, hammers, and tuning. The entire process takes a year, with the slightest flaw threatening to wreck the instrument, so what the movie is really about is the beauty of human precision; Niles’ intimate glimpses of the piano under construction reveal how painstaking the workers are, and the shots themselves have a geometric elegance. In addition to the builders, Niles spends time with end users both famous (Lang Lang, Harry Connick Jr.) and not, including an adolescent boy who’s heart-bustingly enthusiastic when his piano arrives. That approach deeply humanizes the instrument, which both echoes and inspires the personalities of its makers and players. Niles will attend this screening, part of the DC Labor FilmFest.
NOTE BY NOTE SHOWS AT 5:10 P.M. AT THE AFI SILVER THEATRE & CULTURAL CENTER, 8633 COLESVILLE RD., SILVER SPRING. $10. (301) 495-6720.