Habana Blues, closing to Latin rhythms
by Vitor Pinto
21/05/2005 - Some years ago, Buena Vista Social Club by Wim Wenders drew a portrait of an idealized Cuba, almost stereotypical, culturally and musically stuck in the 60’s, in which old musicians became new myths. This year, the Spanish filmmaker Benito Zambrano offered a much more topical outlook (and perhaps closer to reality) with Habana Blues [trailer], the film which closed the Un Certain Regard section to Latin rhythms. But this time there is no room for myths. Nothing has been won yet. These are times of struggle and Zambrano, despite the overall optimistic tone of his film, doesn’t hesitate to show the battle for the recognition of talent and for a different kind of life… elsewhere.
Centred around the friendship and ambition of two musicians – played with total complicity by Alberto Joel García Osorio and Roberto Sanmartin - the screenplay – co-written by the director Ernesto Chao – wraps the viewer up in the rhythms of a unique band which plays almost a principal role in the film. The music is present at almost every moment, even at the cruellest when the film deals with the country’s poverty and clandestine emigration, which is seen as the only future.
Zambrana, who studied at the International Cinema and Television School of San Antonio de los Baños, in Havana, wanted to make a film as close as possible to the socio-cultural reality of the country : "My only pretension – he explains – is that the public enjoy the visual splendour of the Havana scenery, but also to transmit in a musical way, original and direct, a sense of authenticity ; the feeling of watching human beings searching for their place in this world."
Filmed entirely in the Cuban capital in 2004, Habana Blues is not perhaps the project we expected from the director after the stunning success of his first feature, Solas, winner of the public prize at Berlin in 1999 and winner of 5 Goyas (Spanish equivalent of the Oscar). But according to Antonio P. Perez, producer for Zambrano for the second time, his new film put the author in a completely different light since he is no longer considered to be "just a hard line dramatic author."
Already released in Spain on the 18th of March, Habana Blues, for which international sales are held by Pyramide International, began its worldwide adventure last night at Cannes. The film is produced by Antonio P. Peréz for Maestranza Films, in co-production with ICAIC (Cuba) and Pyramide (France), and with the participation of Warner Bros Pictures, TVE, Canal+ Spain, Eurimages, Ibermedia and the Media Programme of the European Union.