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DVD Review – Buena Vista Social Club

2 min read

With delicious food, strong culture and smooth, vibrant sounds of music heard on the streets, Havana, Cuba is a musicians ideal. In 1996, world renowned musician – producer, composer and ultimate star Ry Cooder assembled a group of prominent Cuban performers from the 40s and 50s, from current performers and ones who have long retired, to compose the eventual Grammy-winning album, Buena Vista Social Club. Director Wim Wenders records the journey of Cooder’s return to Havana to record with Ibrahim Ferrer, showcasing the engaging lives of the musicians of Cuba and encapsulating the culture of Havana.

Buena Vista Social Club Inserted Image

German filmmaker Wenders (The State of Things, The Million Dollar Hotel) documents the esteemed gathering of Cooder and the honoured musicians of Cuba to record the Buena Vista Social Club. Wenders effectively traverses from two spectacular performances – Amsterdam and Carnegie Hall, New York City and wonderfully exhibits the musical and cultural adventures of Cooder and his assembled musicians. In the heart and soul of Cuba, Wenders makes the culture palpable through frequent shots of Havana’s beautiful scenery. Buena Vista Social Club successfully establishes the authenticity of Cuba and its legendary musicians, a captivating insight into the lifestyles of artists such as Compay Segundo, Rubén González, Ibrahim Ferrer and Elíades Ochoa.

With a documentary like Buena Vista Social Club that focuses on music, culture and Cuba, an important element of this feature are the musical components that create the entire atmosphere of the film. Fortunately Wenders and his crew significantly collate a tasteful and authentic musical score – with the likes of Francisco Repilado, Harry Warren, Cole Porter and Orestes Lopez – that excellently complements the musical and cultural scene of Cuba.

Of course, what makes Buena Vista Social Club an exceptional piece of film is that it focuses on the musicians, not just the music. Wenders displays their interactions with each other and with the Cuban landscape, giving the viewers a glimpse into their life and experiences.

Buena Vista Social Club is touching and soulful insight into the lives of legendary Cuban musicians – a heartwarming look at Cuban culture and music.