Film Review: Buena Vista Social Club: Adios (2017)

© 2017 Entertainment One.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – 5/5.

Author: Feargal Agard | Runtime: 110 min. | Director: Lucy Walker | Year: 2017.

There aren’t many documentaries that make you dance while sitting in your seat. What a beautiful story of amazing Cuban singers who went through so many hardships. And now that they reached an older age, they all of sudden were given the chance to become super famous. I thought it was heartbreaking, intriguing, learnful and absolutely beautiful.

Buena Vista Social Club: Adios tells the story of several famous Cuban band members during their final tour (in 2016/2017), which will end in the capital city of Havana in their beloved country. They revisit their past and ups and downs. They have gone through many difficulties and in their younger years they never managed to become very famous. Only as from the late 90’s when they are older of age, they all of a sudden receive the recognition and fame that they deserved for their hard work. We are presented with their award-winning performances, them witnessing the possible lifting of the US embargo and they even get to perform in the White House for the President of the United States, Obama. Eventually, many of the band members have died and up till this date there are a few who are still committed to do their final tour.

Buena Vista Social Club: Adios was directed by Lucy Walker. The reason why it is called Buena Vista Social Club with colons followed by the word Adios, is because it is the follow up documentary after the one that the Dutch director Wim Wenders made in the late 90’s, which was named Buena Vista Social Club (1999). This documentary follows their rise after the many years that they were inactive, going through hardships and not being able to make it as far as they would have liked with their singing careers. The band members are basically the founders of latin-Caribbean music. While the Cuban elite in the early twentieth century enjoyed modern western music at the time, people in the slums and smaller towns of Cuba were creating their own music based on African and European sounds that they combined. The band members are some of those people who experimented with these songs and music styles. Until it became popular Cuban music. This style was called ‘Son’ and is a predecessor of other music styles such as Salsa. It is interesting to see the contrasts of poor and rich in the film and how their local meeting place Buena Vista Social Club used to be a centre for dancing, singing and coming together. This is the reason why it is the name of the documentary and the name of the band. The stories that brought them from their own towns to the capital city of Havana are so powerful and urge you to emotionally engage with their lives. The film stars Omara Portuondo, Jesus “Aguaje” Ramos, Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal, Barbarito Torres, Guajirito Mirabal and Eliades Ochoa and many more.

The singers are such amazing people. They are pure hearted and friendly souls, sometimes stuck in their old ways as they have reached a high age, but super warm and welcoming and happy. You can really feel their emotions and the struggles that they went through, but also how they take in all the happiness that they emit and share especially now that they believe that they are being blessed by god for all their hard work. It stirred my emotions and I had to shed a few tears. The character building was beautifully put together, but it mostly comes from the singers themselves who are just open and radiant people.

Buena Vista Social Club: Adios is a documentary film that is built on the characters and the events that they follow, but also their and their island’s history. The camerawork is very much genuine and follows standard documentary procedures such as the exposition of observations or ‘talking heads’. Next to that we are shown imagery, photos and old footage from the 50’s and even from the earlier twentieth century years. The tone of the film is overtly warm. Even though, we do see footage that reminds us of particular sad things that happened. The music is of course the prime element of this documentary. It is sensual, joyful, fast or slow, swinging and infectious. There are plenty of times that you might start to dance in your living room or in your theatre seat.

Buena Vista Social Club: Adios is a must see documentary. Discover the history of popular Cuban music and get familiarized with the icons who not only helped with the creation of Cuban music, but also managed to maintain it so that this legacy can be passed on to their kids and the younger Cuban generation.

In Dutch theatres as from the 29th of June 2017.

Genre: Documentary | Language: English, Spanish | Dutch Distributor: Entertainmenrt One Benelux.

In regard of all pictures and trailer footage. © 2017 Entertainment One. All Rights Reserved to the rightful owners.

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