Funky Blues and Guaguanco (Work In Progress) (, 83 min)
Directed by: Randy Valdes
The New York City Independent Film Festival presents an out-of-competition, work in progress screening of Funky Blues Guaguano.
In the 90’s, Cuba was suffering a fierce economic, political and social crisis that drowned the country in misery, hunger and desperation. As history has repeatedly demonstrated, when faced with a crisis that is effectively crumbling society, creativity blooms. Being the protagonist that music has always been in Cuba, it offered not just an escape but a means of expression during the most oppressive time in the nation's history. As a result, a new generation of talented musicians and songwriters arose, carrying the torch for a people desperately seeking freedom of expression.
The Cuban government decided to freeze all exportation of art, and the world was now shut off from the rich evolution that music was experiencing within the country’s borders. This led to decreasing career opportunities for Cuban musicians, on the island and abroad. While some chose to stay and fight the oppressive system from within, others felt forced to flee the island in hopes to save their art and survive. A Todo Color (Global Cuba), is a feature documentary that tells the story of these musicians.
The film stars seven main characters: Luis Barberia, Vanito Brown, Gema Corredera, Jorge Gómez, Yadam Glez, Horacio 'El Negro” Hernandez and Roberto Carcasses; artists whose lives were intertwined and bonded by their passion for music and their Cuban roots. The film brings their stories to light, from childhood to the current stage of their proliferous careers.
As children, their strong inclination toward the arts resulted in a vastly different upbringing to that of other children. Their studies kept them from what would normally be play time but their natural talents and hard work led them to an education in Cuba’s National Art School (ENA); a school where all of the nation’s artistic prodigies hoped to study. The strict program mandated that students study only classical music, making it even more irresistible to experiment with foreign genres that had been forbidden for decades. Upon graduating, their technical abilities along with their artistic ambition and will to protest against the suffocation and oppression defined their generation as a movement ready to push contemporary Cuban music forward.
Outside the school walls, graduates were greeted with a society entering the Special Period, when experimental expressions of art were considered by the government as subversive and dangerous. In response, they sparked an underground music scene, constructed through informal gatherings, that offered a platform for freely voicing their restlessness. However, they knew that they would never get the support from government-run institutions that had exclusive control over radio play, press, recording studios and live performance opportunities at official venues. For many, the only hope for professional success was to find a way out of the island; starting a new life in a foreign country against all odds.
Once again, these musicians had to build their careers from scratch; their music as foreign to their audiences as they were. In order to insert themselves into those markets, they incorporated influences from their new environments in an effort to gain appeal. The result was a rich musical aesthetic that won the hearts of audiences all over the world and reintroduced Cuban music to the international market.
After nearly three decades of personal and professional growth, filled with both extremely difficult and rewarding experiences, these artists found themselves in some of the biggest arenas. The cast has collected several Grammy nominations and awards, accompanied the greatest and most successful musicians of our time like Carlos Santana, Jack Bruce (of Cream) and Ketama among others. Finally, after many years away from home, Cuba’s political, social and cultural contexts are experiencing a change that is allowing them to return and share their art with an audience that, to their amazement, has faithfully clung to their music.