With the birth of the ICAIC (Cuba’s National Film Institute) and its policy promoting documentary filmmaking, Cuban music makes a cinematic splash through a considerable number of works that depict it from its many angles. Cuban cinema featured many of its landmark figures; classics; groups of all formats, tendencies, genres and movements of different periods; music festivals and gatherings; as well as international artists visiting the island. We will screen the first short film about music produced after the Revolution: Rhythm of Cuba (1960), by Néstor Almendros, and a brief selection of documentaries by filmmaker José Limeres (Los Meme, Celeste Mendoza , Las D’Aida). Rogelio París’ contribution is outstanding, including feature-length Nosotros, la música (1964). The film, which has become a cult-like rediscovery, presents many songs, popular music, and dances through a mix of Free Cinema and musical theater by famous performers such as Bola de Nieve, Celeste Mendoza, Elena Burke, Charanga Francesa, the Ignacio Piñeiro Septet, and various carnival troupes from Havana.
Most Cuban documentary filmmakers have at some point approached music as a source of inspiration. This sidebar attempts to offer a brief panoramic view of Cuban music depictions in the country’s documentary cinema through a few of its landmark titles. Some are U.S. premieres, while others screen in New York for the first time. The program includes traditional popular festivities (Las parrandas); the didactic approach (… And We Have Flavor); the confluence of a great composer with a famous grouping (Leo-Irakere); the evocation of the mark left by famous representatives of Cuban musical history: Rita Montaner (With All My Love, Rita), Bola de Nieve (I Am The Song I Sing), pianist Emiliano Salvador (The Hands And The Angel) and one of the members of the famed quartet Los Zafiros (Bluechacha); and the itinerary of the Nueva Trova movement from its roots (From My Soul, Memories). Half a century after the premiere of Nosotros, la música (We, The Music), we present this brief cinematic tour that could be the prelude to a full retrospective on a subject so attractive and recurrent.
Film critic, historian and researcher
Director, Cinematheque of Cuba