Salsa! and Uno Paraiso Bajos Las Estrellas

23 Aug

A picture of from the film 'Salsa!'

Latin films a-go-go

audio transcript

Last year, The London Latin American film Festival brought us the unforgettable Buena Vista Social Club. This alone should persuade you not to miss this year’s festival in case it reveals another jewel. On the menu, an excellent mix of features, documentaries and shorts. Films coming from Ecuador to Switzerland and covering topics from earthquakes to Elvis – Mexican Style! Two of the headlining films this year are concerned with Music and revolve around Cuban identity. Both are having their British premieres, but while one is made in France, the other comes from Cuba. The French production, Salsa – is directed by Joyce Bunuel. [Music] It tells the story of a white french boy who passes himself off as a Cuban to play and to teach salsa. The Cuban offering, by Gerado Chijona, tells a story of everyday showbusiness folk in the famous nightclub, The Tropicana, in Havana. [Music] The title ‘Un Paraiso bajo las estrellas’ translates to english as ‘A paradise under the stars’, and the flamboyant colours in the set-piece dance routines do the title justice. Stuart Astill, regular Radio Quality film critic, is here with me. Stuart, the films had similar themes – but they are treated in a very different way. Stuart: Yes, Salsa!, was the French made film. It was quite commercial; first and foremost it was a comedy. The basic premise was a French classical musician who is completely in love with Cuban Music. [Music] He heads off for Paris, where the latino scene is booming. Then, of course, there is the inevitable romantic involvement ending in trouble when he passes himself off as a Cuban. The themes are race and relationships. They crop up there in the film, but are hardly dealt with subtly. And there was nothing really unique or gripping. The band was good though. [Music] Laure: so you thought the cubans did it better? Stuart: Un Paraiso bajo las estrellas was obviously from the start a much more impressive film. It was a lot less commercial, more intimate but not worringly arty. The themes were basically the same as Salsa; race, romance and the desire for latin music. [Music] But then they formed a much more organic part of the film, they weren’t imposed as it felt in Salsa. I’m not saying that Salsa wasn’t good entertainment, but it was a straight dowm the line piece of filmmaking, Un Paraiso starts off being pretty bizarre maybe being a bit corny, but still comes out as a winner. Laure: was there anything else in the programme that particularly whetted your appetite? Stuart: As far as the headliners go I’m pretty intrigued by the documentary about the Mexican Elvis – The King of Rock. I also liked the sound of ‘El Trianagulo del Lago’ ‘The Triangle of the Lake’ from Bolivia – I’m not sure what it is, but to me, from the title at least, it sounds very Andean, very Bolivian! And who could miss out on a short film from Mexico when its called ‘Human Sashimi’? Laure: mmmmmm? Well, if you want to see any of these films then the festival runs from the 1st to the 14th of September at the Metro cinema in Central London, but the films are also showing at cinemas around the country. If you’re outside the UK, check out the Internet movie database at IMDB.COM for local release dates.

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