Tickets go on sale on Friday, February 19th


Thu Feb 27, 2020 – 7:30 pm | Hendricks Arts Center
Sat Feb 29, 2020 – 12:00 pm | La Casa Grande

Behind The Strings

Directed by Hal Rifken
Documentary Feature
USA | 74 min | 2020

When Mao’s Cultural Revolution ended, China’s door cracked open. Four young, classically trained musicians seized the opportunity to flee to the West. They’ve performed for 36 years in the U.S. and around the world. Behind the Strings tells how they got there, and the price they pay to stay on top. And, why China is now inviting them back to perform the music that was previously banned.

The moderated Q&A session with filmmakers:

Behind The Strings poster | Hal Rifkin, Director

One of the attractions of documentary filmmaking is the opportunity to learn something about which one knows very little. When Producer Michael Peroff approached me to partner with him on a documentary that would profile a string quartet, my exposure to classical music—not to mention chamber music–was nonexistent. I had worked for Sony Music for a period but that involved rock, jazz, R & B, and pop artists. But I said yes, nonetheless, and a new learning challenge began.

Five years later, I can now say I know a bit about chamber music and why Mao’s Cultural Revolution banned it. And about the heart of the documentary: what it takes to become a world-renowned quartet, four guys fiddling together, managing to not kill each other over artistic differences.

I served as both Director and Cinematographer, which I found a fascinating challenge. Happy to say that alongside editor Tracy Cring, we pulled off a remarkable film.

Hal Rifken, Director | Behind The StringsHal Rifkin

Hal Rifken has worked as a cinematographer and documentary film producer/director for over 30 years. Beginning his career as an educator, he shifted from academic studies at the University of Wisconsin to filmmaking. After apprenticing with local filmmakers in Madison, he moved to New York City and immediately began production on a series of informational videos for District 75, NYC’s special education department. Production highlights: he spent 2 years on location for the Food Network shooting Chef Martin Yan as he shared his wok with fellow food enthusiasts (Edible Roots Wit Martin Yan).

His documentary subjects include one on an Indian-American artist (Blue Like Me: The Art of Siona Benjamin); a profile of a 300 pound drag queen (Dixie Queen); and 5 years shooting producer Michael Peroff’s ambitious string quartet project (Behind The String). Currently he is producing a documentary on Guatemala’s indigenous Maya people (Guatemala: Trouble in the Highlands).

Film Information

Director: Hal Rifken
Country: United States
Year: 2020
Language: English
Runtime: 74 min.
Rated: PG


Writers: Michael Peroff, Hal Rifken
Producers: Michael Peroff
Editor: Tracy Nicole Cring

Connect With This Film

BIFF - Beloit International Film Festival
BIFF | Beloit International Film Festival