The 2015 Mesquite “Best of Fest” film festival, sponsored by the Eureka Casino, was held at Redd Hills Cinema and Megaplex Cinemas Oct. 5 through 9.
Twelve documentaries along with six short features were screened and voted on by Mesquite and surrounding area citizens. Those who attended the documentary “The Devil and the Angel” had the added bonus of meeting the subject of the documentary, Master Luthier (Violin Maker) Kevin Lee.
The documentary “The Devil and the Angel” combines the very passionate story of the making of one of a series of 12 Master Violins, the “Angel” violin and a heart-wrenching and tenderly told autobiography by Lee. The film is directed by Lee’s daughter-in-law, Kat, who attends DSU’s Film Program.
It has been said by many that the violin is the devil’s instrument. It leaves one question in the minds of many, “how can the Devil’s instrument possess the voice of an angel?” The documentary “The Devil and the Angel” answers that question in a masterful tribute to Lee.
You’ve read or heard about the stories of “rags to riches”; well this isn’t one of them. Lee’s story begins just the opposite, more “riches to rags.” Although it’s taken many years and much sacrifice and studying he’s gained a wealth that can’t be measured by monetary standards. It is a wealth few of us ever achieve. The wealth obtained from doing something you truly love and are completely passionate about… at least that is how this story will end. Lee still has a lot of life to live.
Lee began life in a storybook setting; he was born in Seattle, Washington. He lived in a mansion with a swimming pool in the basement. Lee was born to a father who was a nuclear physicist and an engineer with Boeing. He lived his first 13 years in a powerful world where he had everything and anything money could buy and calls his childhood life, “a little kids dream.”
At the age of 13 his father bought a parcel of land and moved them all to Utah, an area in which no one had ever lived before. The land his father purchased was involved in all kinds of lawsuits. They had no running water or power and in the end they lost everything due to legal fees. All that was left was the original piece of land in the deal. Forty acres of desert land that contained nothing but a broken down, bug- and rat-infested pile of filth that was once a mobile home. It was the home that he would have to call his; the home he would exist in for the next four years.
In the movie “The Devil and the Angel” Lee is as much a Master Storyteller as he is a Master Luthier. Unrehearsed and unscripted, Lee’s words and his story are as fluid, beautiful and emotional as the music he creates when he draws his bow across the strings. His story is as compelling as any symphony ever written, as tragic and sad as Alan Pettersson’s Symphony #6, as happy as Niccolò Paganini’s Violin Concerto #1 and as full of hope, love and joy as “The Waltz of the Flowers” from the Nutcracker.
At the age of seventeen Lee’s life took on a very different direction when his brother brought home a violin. Lee instantly fell in love at the first sound of the bow being drawn across the strings. He was hooked and began learning everything he could about this wonderful instrument. Playing the violin seventeen hours a day made life almost bearable but not quite.
Lee managed to pull an old record player out of the dump which worked and found only one record to play which was a song that included the words “Get down on his knees and pray.” Lee said he did get on his knees for the first time ever in his life that night and he prayed for an angel.
The next morning when Lee woke up and bleary-eyed, stepped out of the hellish home and into the morning light, there she was, his angel… and for the second time in his life Lee found love at first sight. One week later he moved out of the rat infested trailer and never looked back. He married his angel, Sheryl, and together they’ve accomplished Lee’s dream of becoming a Master Luthier.
Lee created a viola which was independently appraised at over $50,000 in New York. Since that time, the instrument has been compared with many of the finest creations of Gaspar DaSalo, Paolo Maggini, Peter Guarneri and Antonio Stradivari in Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center, and other well-known concert halls, and was chosen above them all, every time, by multiple audiences.
The story ends with Lee gaining a wealth beyond measure and one that certainly has no monetary value unless you count the two million dollars’ worth of wood hanging from the ceiling in Lee’s garage. Lee found a wealth that can only be measured by the soul.
He found two very deep and abiding loves…one that is his true “Angel” and the love of doing what he is so deeply passionate about; creating instruments that can produce the voices of “Angels” even though they may be considered the “Devil’s instrument”.
DOCUTAH is a Southern Utah International Film Festival presented by Dixie State University in St. George, Utah and Phil Tuckett, DOCUTAH Artistic Director and Director of the DSU Film Program
“Best of Fest” film festival is a partnership between the Eureka Community Initiative, DocUtah and Redd Hills Cinema, Eureka Casino Resort and Mesquite resident Ken Cook. All proceeds from ticket sales benefit Mesquite Reads, a summer reading program at Virgin Valley Elementary school.
You can obtain a copy of “The Devil and the Angel” by contacting Dixie State University’s film program.