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Cuba: Island of Music
Year:  2003
Running Time:  80 minutes
Country:  USA/Cuba
Language:  English
Genre:  Documentary
Cast:  Orquesta Aragon, Los Zafiros, and Manolin el Medico de la Salsa
Showtime:   Wednesday, March 16, 2005 @ 06:00 PM
Director:  Gary Keys

Description:
  Just when you thought there was all to know about Cuba through film documentaries about Fidel Castro and the acclaimed film “The Buena Vista Social Club”, there’s more to come. Gary Keys is a noted film music documentary filmmaker whose latest film, Cuba: Island of Music, is a documentary about the ordinary people of Cuba who, in their homes, on the streets, in their schools, and most of all, in their hearts, have delivered to the world one of the greatest musical creations of modern times. Featured in the film are renowned artists such as Orquesta Aragon, Los Zafiros, and many others.

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

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