Cuba Feliz | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Cuba Feliz

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Here in the U.S. we may view music as a transaction between artist and consumer, but in the slums of Cuba it's a communal experience, with nothing but the tap of a foot dividing the listeners from the performers. For this jubilant French documentary, director Karim Dridi uses a single handheld camera and boom mike to follow 76-year-old bolero guitarist Miguel Del Morales, known as El Gallo (the Rooster), as he travels to Santiago, Guantanamo, Trinidad, and back home to Havana, joining in local street jams and dropping in on old friends to party and sing. The picaresque narrative introduces us to trumpeter Pepin Vaillant, who carries on a musical dialogue with trumpeter Paisan Mallet while ascending the decaying stairwell to Mallet's home; to singer Zaida Reyte, who answers her front door to find a makeshift band requesting a song; to percussionist Alberto Pablo, whose nocturnal workout is nearly obscured from the camera by a bonfire's dancing flames; to Mario Sanchez Martinez, whose experiments with rap spark a lively if uneasy jam at a traditional party; and to guitar maker Gilberto Mendez, who observes, "A guitar is like a child. You never know how it'll turn out." The film is music from beginning to end, and nearly every note of it is magical. 90 min. Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton, Chicago, Friday, October 18, 7:00 and 9:00; Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20, 3:00, 5:00, 7:00, and 9:00; and Monday through Thursday, October 21 through 24, 7:00 and 9:00; 773-281-4114.

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