Havana is Waiting for Chico and Rita / Iván García

It would have been perfect. That Chico and Rita, by the Spaniards Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal, could have inaugurated the 32nd edition of the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, scheduled from the 2nd to the 12th of December in Havana and other Cuban cities.

If they’d exhibited at the event, it wouldn’t have gotten a lot of play. As already happened in 2000 with Calle 54, the film where Trueba — then not having been seen for several years — set the stage for the reunion of Bebo and Chucho Valdés and sat them down to play the piano.

Starting from a love story between two Habanero mulattos, Chico and Rita exposes facets of Cuban music and Latin jazz in a very original style, with animation. The plot develops in Havana and New York. Until then, everything goes well.

The problem is that the soundtrack is from Bebo Valdés, 92-years-old. And the tape is dedicated to him. Bebo, Chucho’s father, is considered a ‘deserter’ by the Castro regime.

That’s not the only obstacle. There are also some statements of Javier Mariscal, who has said “the Castro Brothers are a disaster as agents”, which set one off that the island “gets worse every time”.

It is a shame that in Cuba everything passes through the political sieve.The people pay the consequences of not being able to see a pleasant movie that narrates part of their rich musical heritage in the theaters.

One has to content oneself with knowing that Chico and Rita was very well received in London and already received a prize at an animated film festival in Holland. On February 25, 2011, it will be premiered in Spain and might even be nominated for an Oscar.

Or do like always: hope that a DVD copy shows up, ‘burn’ it, and pass it along clandestinely. If we Cubans are accustomed to anything, it’s movie and television piracy.

Translated by: JT

December 11 2010