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3 reviews, 18 user ratings

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Buena Vista Social Club
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by Filmnet

"A feast for the eyes and ears."
4 stars

This film won Best Documentary at the Melbourne and Noosa Film Festivals. I'm sorry I missed it when it showed in Melbourne, it's a film that would be just as enjoyable on a second viewing. Into Cuban music? Then you will love Buena Vista Social Club. The BVSC was a hangout that existed sometime in the past, somewhere in Havana.

When the film opens, an old Cuban man is trying to find its original location. What appears to be a quest for a building turns out to be an intro to an enchanting story. The BVSC is now the name of a group of Cuban musicians and singers, who, through a happy chain of events, have come out of obscurity into international prominence, culminating in a Grammy Award and a concert at Carnegie Hall.

The genesis of this film lies in a trip by Ry Cooder (American guitarist and composer) to Cuba in the 1970s. He fell in love with the seductive music. In 1996 he was asked to undertake a project there by a British record producer. When the West African musicians were unable to get to Cuba, Cooder assembled a group of older musicians, many of whom had drifted into anonymous poverty.

The result was the CD which became an international hit. German filmmaker Wenders (A Trick of the Light, Wings of Desire) has known Cooder for 20 years (Cooder scored The End of Violence and Paris, Texas). We see a series of informal interviews and daily lives of the performers, along with excerpts of studio recording and concert footage. Do you think Cuba and think poverty? You'd be right - the buildings are rotting right in front of your eyes. And what about cigars? There are a few moments in a cigar factory, where we get to see some being made. But it's what we hear that makes this documentary so special.

The music is a combination of Cuban folklore and various song forms, most prominently the Cuban son and bolero. There are also mambo, danzon and tumbao rhythms, along with tunes influenced by American jazz, gospel and blues (not surprising given Cooder's diverse influences). The Cuban performers range in age from a young 46 to a youthful 90. (This film would have been a perfect metaphor for the Year of Older Persons.)

Wenders lets the musicians, through both their performances and voice-overs, tell their own story. You could almost close your eyes and let the music of love, love lost, and life-long struggle wash over you. But keep those eyes open, and watch the emotion on the faces of Buena Vista Social Club performers. It's a joy. (Emma

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originally posted: 12/29/99 04:51:11
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User Comments

7/31/05 yuko beautiful, spiritual, amazing artists 5 stars
10/14/04 R.W. Welch Really old, old timers of Cuban music talk and play. Interesting stuff. 4 stars
11/16/00 Chris Drake Grand musical stars glow in faded communist slums-saw a live performance,too. Bravo x 2! 4 stars
4/17/00 punkass This film contains the best percussion solo of all time. Lush to watch, tambien. 5 stars
3/01/00 Luke Williams - Film Student Not bad for what it is. 4 stars
2/12/00 Skye Chapman a movie with soul 5 stars
2/10/00 Danny & Sharon Viva la Cuba ...Best film at FILM FEST 99......10/10 5 stars
1/09/00 Matthew Temple Not much Wim, plenty of rhythm, sun and nostalgic glimpse of the 20th Con and history 5 stars
11/20/99 Alan Lawrencw, D.C. Emotional, entertaining, inspiring, magical 5 stars
10/07/99 Heather Great movie, it opens a rarely opened window of Cuba, the duet was worth $7 5 stars
8/15/99 sissy sent me into an orgy of CD consumption. 5 stars
8/04/99 Howard Herscovici Spell binding 5 stars
7/16/99 JJ Great story, but Wenders should have invested in a light meter. 4 stars
7/09/99 bridgette very informative to say the least. the music is awesome, naturally. 4 stars
7/03/99 Miguel Machalski Nice to see a camera fiming beauty without a single gimmick, manipulative trickery or SFX.. 5 stars
6/20/99 Kenneth Yas Wenders directs this film with an effortless grace and sense of mission. 5 stars
6/14/99 Mr Variety Most everyone with a pulse will get into this club 5 stars
6/03/99 Mr BoxOffice One of the most beautiful and poetic documentaries ever made. 5 stars
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