After eight years of filming, documentary charts classical pianist’s coming of age

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17min 28sec
Photo: pianist Marika Bournaki
Pianist Marika Bournaki, the subject of the documentary "I Am Not a Rock Star."

The director took her time creating a portrait of pianist Marika Bournaki. Once Bournaki and her family agreed to the project, Hart followed the pianist for eight years, from age 12 to 20, for the documentary that became “I Am Not a Rock Star.”

The film debuted at festivals in 2012 and will be shown Thursday to a sold-out crowd at Denver’s Sie Film Center. It charts Bournaki's growth from a talented child who had played Carnegie Hall at age 10 to a more mature performer who lives on her own and studies at Juilliard.

Bournaki said she enjoyed many parts of making the filming, though it was difficult to relive some parts of her teen years when she watched the final product.

“It’s a very unforgiving time in a young person’s life, when you’re a teenager,” Bournaki told CPR Classical.

Bournaki and Hart spoke with CPR Classical in advance of Thursday's screening and Bournaki's performance on Friday at the King Center Concert Hall. Interview highlights:

Bournaki on why the term “prodigy” never seemed like a good label for her:

I never really considered myself a prodigy, and I really mean that. … To me, the word “prodigy” means that you have a very easy time, you know? So Mozart was a prodigy. Mendelssohn was a prodigy. They were able to achieve very mature things (that) adults could do, at a very young age. And I don’t really think that I was able to do that. I know that people said from a very young age I had a certain maturity and I had instincts at the piano but I always had to work quite hard. Nothing came very easy to me.

Bournaki on why watching a film about her teen years is more difficult than scrutinizing her own piano recordings:

I think it was even more difficult to see myself on the screen because I’m playing, I’m talking, I’m living. And even more than that, I’m exposing, I’m opening my life to the world. … It’s a very unforgiving time in a young person’s life, when you’re a teenager.

Hart on how she read a newspaper article about Bournaki and immediately wanted to make a film about the young pianist:

My previous feature documentary was following the women’s pro tennis tour. … All the girls on the tennis tour were adults when I was following them. But I was really fascinated by the fact that they had really dedicated their entire childhoods to this dream. … I was capturing their lives already as they were adults. In my head, I thought it would be interesting to follow a young person in the process of pursuing a profession during their childhood -- and how that impacts on them and their families and their own choices in life. So after the film on the women’s tennis tour was finished I came across that article serendipitously, just in the newspaper and thought, oh, this is it.

Watch the trailer for the film:

“I Am Not a Rock Star” will be shown at the Sie Film Center at 7 p.m. Thursday, presented by Women + Film and Friends of Chamber Music. A reception starts at 6 p.m. After the film, Bournaki will perform and Bournaki and Hart will both take audience questions. (UPDATE: The screening is sold out.) Bournaki also performs at 7 p.m. Friday at the King Center Concert Hall.