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Film Review: STRAD STYLE
by Karen Pecota

The Documentary Grand Jury Prize and the Documentary Audience Award at the 2017 Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, goes to filmmaker and violinist Stefan Avalos for STRAD STYLE. A remarkable story of how dreams come true.

Stefan Avalos was working on a “boring” (Avalos' own descriptive word) documentary project about the history of the violin. Interviewing violinists in the mid-west, Avalos heard about a 32-year-old Ohio native, Daniel (Danny) Houck and a crazy proposition he made to the famous Romanian solo violinist, Razvan Stoica.

Avalos finds Danny's story hard to believe and decides to venture into the backwater town of Laurelville, Ohio in search of an eccentric recluse dreamer obsessed with all things violin. Finding Danny Houck would be unique because, if the rumors about him are true, his story is well-worth documenting on film, as well as securing a placement in the written annals of violin history. Avalon is ready to put his violin history project on the shelf to tell Danny's story.

Danny and Stoica meet on Facebook conversing about the violin, its masters and makers. A passion they both share. Stoica admits that he dreams to one day to perform with an antique masterpiece or a replica of his favorite. Danny's generosity overtakes the moment and offers to make the virtuoso violinist a replica of one of the most famous violins in history--a Guarneri Il Cannone. The commission would be a monumental task for even the finest of the violin craftsmen. Danny has never made a violin before.

Danny's obsession for violins and its music began in childhood. Since then, his enjoyment to converse with like minds and show-off detailed body tats prove his obsession. Specifically, he is most enthusiastic about the music that comes from the two most acclaimed violin-makers in history: Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesu.

Danny is fortunate to have natural God-given talents, ingenuity and perseverance because he has no training to build such an elaborate instrument. Determined to "do-this" and make good on his promise, Danny's initial companion is his computer, his first tool. He's absorbed with Internet research to figure out how to make an exact copy of a nearly 300-year old violin. One Danny's never seen live.

The Stradivari style of violin is an immaculately looking piece made to perfection. The Guarneri is rugged in appearance. Danny's craftsmanship resembles rugged but to have "Strad Style" is his dream.

Avalos meets Danny three months into his committed project with very little progress. Danny has seven months left to fulfill his promise. It's at this point that Avalos enters Danny's world offering to assist him on his journey as a one-man camera man and documentarian. The two become inseparable.

STRAD Style follows an extraordinary mission of a young adult (Daniel Houck) who dared to dream. STRAD Style is told by an acclaimed storyteller and filmmaker (Stefan Avalos) for the world to take notice. STRAD Style culminates with the performance of a lifetime by Romanian's virtuoso violinist (Razvan Stoica). STRAD Style documents a true-story beyond the wildest of dreams.(Karen Pecota)

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