Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video
Directed by: Gary Keys.
Produced by: Gary Keys & Brendan Ward.
Director of Photography: Caesare Costanzo, et al.
Edited by: David Himmelstein & Dora Soltani.
Music: Orquesta Aragon, Los Zafiros, and Manolin el Medico de la Salsa, et al.
Released by: Gary Keys Productions.
Country of Origin: USA. 80 min. Not Rated.
With: Gary Keys, Chico O'Farrell & Billy Taylor.
In this lively and sensuous documentary with a stiff title, director Gary Keys asks
on-camera: how can the supposedly repressed Cuban people have so much freedom
in their music. “How can they play with such virtuosity? Is everyone a musical
genius?” Keys is drawn to the country for the “most danceable music in the world”
and the old American cars. Driving through Havana is like being in a
time warp - 1950 models roam the streets, lined with crumbling colonial buildings,
while the young people wear American brand name T-shirts. New York-based
musicians Chico O’Farrell (who refuses to discuss Fidel Castro) and Billy Taylor
explain the qualities of the island’s music: the emphasis on drums, the contrasting
rhythms, and its African origins. The observations are far from penetrating. “The
dance and music are intertwined,” according to Taylor. Unidentified Cuban
women offer, “Music and love are one thing,” and “The music is a stimulant.”
Throughout the interviews and music, footage includes scenes of Cuban life from
the butcher shop to the beach: people, young and old, black and white, dancing
to street bands; women in a cigar factory smoking stogies; as well as a private Santeria
ceremony (the ASPCA won’t approve). The camera especially lingers on the backsides
of the beautiful, voluptuous women. Cuba certainly
captures the vitality of the island’s music. With images similar to Buena Vista
Social Club, but with far less historical resonance, Cuba is both a
travelogue and a celebration. KT