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Eliades Ochoa From Cuba to the World


Positivation Films will be screening the documentary film Eliades Ochoa From Cuba To The World at The Fort Myers Film Festival. The film lovingly narrates the story of Eliades Ochoa, one of the founding members of the Buena Vista Social Club, whose music left an indelible imprint on the international community’s perception of Cuba.

Ochoa grew up immersed in Son Cubano, a genre of music originating in east Cuba in the late 1800s that blends the clave rhythms of the Bantu region with Hispanic vocal styles. Both of Ochoa’s parents played Son Cubano, as did his brothers, with his sister providing vocal support, so Ochoa taught himself to play Son on the guitar. Soon, he was playing locally, collaborating with well-known Cuban musicians and touring with a group around the island.

Happenstance led to his inclusion a number of years later in the original line up of the Buena Vista Social Club, which also included Ibrahim Ferrer, Compay Segundo, Ruben Gonzales, Pío Leyva, Omara Portuondo, Joachim Coorder, Orlando “Cachaito” Lopez and Barbarito Torres. In six days, they busked out a record comprised mainly of Son songs that came out in pre-revolutionary Cuba in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s.

The album became an emblem of Cuba, popularizing Cuban music in the West and drawing scores of tourists to the island in spite of the 1958 U.S. trade embargo. It won several awards, including a Grammy in 1998 for the Best Tropical Latin Album. Wim Wenders’ documentary a year later about the making of the record, Beuna Vista Social Club, was nominated for Oscars, BAFTAS, and a slew of other awards at film festivals all over the world.

Spreading his love for traditional Cuban folk music has always been Ochoa’s main goal. And in that sense, the Buena Vista Social Club was a monumental success. In fact, tourists who visit Havana today are astonished to find just how many local groups are playing Son Cubano and other genres of Cuban folk music.

“Because Buena Vista Social Club identifies as Cuban,” Ochoa touts.

Eliades Ochoa From Cuba To The World chronicles this journey and narrates Ochoa’s larger story, pulling together rare pictures, archival material and new interviews, preserving not only his involvement as an original member of the world famous Buena Vista Social Club, but the richness of the musical heritage of his country for generations to come. More, the documentary offers “a rare glimpse into the daily lives of the Cuban people and their beautiful music that is treasured around the world,” elucidates the filmmaker, Cynthia Biestek. “To be a witness to such great talent has been pure joy for me!”

Eliades Ochoa From Cuba To The World will be screened in the Foulds Theatre at the Alliance for the Arts at 7:00 p.m. on April 11. The evening will begin with a reception featuring light refreshments at 6:30 p.m. followed by the 100min documentary. The evening is free to attend, but a $10 suggested donation keeps programming affordable and accessible. 

Note: This film is screened in Spanish with English subtitles.

March 14, 2019.

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