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Director Irene Chagall’s Let’s Get the Rhythm!: The Life and Times of Miss Mary Mack covers familiar folkloric territory: hand-clapping and rhythm games among young girls. The wide-ranging film frames rhythmic play as something inherent to human beings, particularly girls, with foundations in psychology and anthropology and connected to other forms of artistic expression. Chagall takes her camera around the world and through long stretches of human history to develop the film’s thesis that clapping games are serious business for the girls who play them and that such games are worthy of focused attention. Students of other social sciences will find as much to contemplate in the film as folklorists, a testament to the richness of source materials and scholarship found in its hour-long running time. While Chagall offers a great deal of enriching context, Let’s Get the Rhythm! also leaves a number of avenues unexplored and unresolved, creating both a problem for a viewer who wants more and an opportunity for ongoing scholarly work.
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