Cuba is celebrated for its music, but it is a tough place to pursue a musical career. Just ask the subjects of two short features screened at the HFFNY Saturday, Havana Kidz II (trailer here) and Silvio Pupo: No Borders.
Cuban-American filmmaker Alberto Gonzalez is following a group of aspiring student musicians in his Havana Kidz project. Resources are definitely an issue for his subjects. In fact, Gonzalez has been trying to collect instrument donations for them, but like the students in Bruce Broder’s CHOPS, these young musicians’ enthusiasm and commitment gives one hope for music’s future. Grounded in traditional Cuban forms, they are molding their own sound by incorporating reggaeton and other more contemporary Cuban styles.
Most of the festival cut of HK2 consists of the Kidz rehearsing and preparing to cut a demo. They sound great, and there is just something refreshing about their musical exuberance. When they do talk, it is usually in conversation with each other about music. Hopefully change will come to Cuba, allowing them to better pursue their ambitions.
Also screening in the same program was Gwendolyn “GG” Geddes’ Silvio Pupo: No Borders. A talented pianist proficient in many styles, Pupo bristles when asked to perform Cuban music simply because he is Cuban. An expat, Pupo evidently found Halifax, Nova Scotia to be greener pastures than Cuba for a career in music.
At just over three minutes total running time, Borders is essentially a brief commercial for Pupo and his regular weekly gig with the Jeff Goodspeed trio at a Halifax club. As such though, it is very effective. I’ll definitely look to hear them if I’m ever in town.
Finishing the program of shorts was Alejandro Ramirez’s Some Kind of Sadness, which starts quite promisingly, recounting a little known episode of Olympic shame from the infamous 1936 games. The decidedly non-Aryan Peruvian football team battled back against the lily-white Austrians, forcing overtime, where the underdog Peruvians were able to jump out to a 4-2 lead. However, after the Austrians protested, the Olympic authorities accepted their dubious claims, ordering a rematch. The Peruvians told them to stick it in their ear and left.
If ever there was a time to rethink the Olympics, it is this year. However, rather than focus on another telling episode of Olympic shame, Sadness uses it as a metaphor for vague feelings of sadness, or frustration, or general impotence, plaguing Latin American in general, at least according to the director. He seems to try to extend the metaphor through a depressed (and depressing) American expat friend. The film does not make much sense overall, despite a powerful beginning. Overall, it was a very mixed bag of shorts, but the program introduced audiences to some undeniably talented (and young) musicians. HK2 screens again at the Bronx Museum of the Arts on 4/18 at 6:00.