Robert Palmer’s Daughter Delves into his Past in The Hand of Fatima


The late Robert Palmer (no, not the “Addicted to Love” guy) wore many hats before dying of liver failure in 1997: He was a famous rock critic and musicologist, a not-so-famous clarinet and sax player for ’60s psych-prog rockers the Insect Trust, a blues producer, and a negligent father. In a confused search for catharsis and profundity, director Augusta Palmer—daughter from the first of Robert’s four wives, whom he abandoned just after her birth—tries to reclaim some of her dad’s essence by delving into his greatest musical obsession: the Master Musicians of Jajouka. Following Palmer the filmmaker as she ventures to Morocco with her baby and one of her dad’s ex-wives, the documentary introduces the current generation of this 1,000-year-old band of Sufi villagers whose complex pan-flute drones were also endorsed by the Beat poets and Brian Jones. August gets misty after hearing a cassette tape of her father playing with the Masters and seeing a lamb gorily sacrificed in his honor. But unless you personally knew the man—so, inclined to nostalgia—all the slapdash animation, stock footage, fake Robert narration, and cred-boosting testimonials here (Yoko Ono, Donovan, Genesis P. Orridge) offer less insight than father Palmer’s own book-turned-doc Deep Blues.