19th XicanIndie Latino Film Festival Opens In Denver With An Especially Hot Cuban Musical Flair

Article & Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media (see photo gallery below)

It turned out to be a very special night for the crowd the packed into Frank Trujillo Salon Del Arte at Denver’s Su Teatro Cultural & Performing Arts Center for the opening night of the 19th Annual XicanIndie FilmFest: Latino World Cinema. Luis Barberia, currently one of Havana’s hottest talents, amazed the audience with his acoustical voice and guitar, making the sounds of several accompanying instruments with just his mouth and body.

The crowd may have not known what a unique talent was about to perform for them, I know I didn’t, but after viewing “A Todo Color” the documentary that featured his life’s journey, as well as that of other Cuban musicians, and their passion to make their music heard outside of Cuban made most realize that Barberia is a unique talent who had persevered through very difficult times to achieve his dreams. (see complete review below) The film and performance are scheduled to repeat Friday evening.
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The four day festival is regarded as the Rocky Mountain Region’s premiere Latino Film Festival featuring some of the best Latino cinema and it’s creators from across the America’s. Thursday night’s opening was just the beginning of what promises to be a great weekend of fantastic films, music, people and parties. There is free popcorn and water for everyone provided by Amica Insurance as well as catered pre and after parties. Tonight’s premiere of Bobby Lefebre’s “Welcome to the Northside” is sold out but there are many other great films and activities being offered throughout the weekend including a “Fame, I Want To Live Forever! Party” celebrating Tanya Mote’s 20th year as Su Teatro’s Associate Director as well as her 50th birthday.

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The Xicanindie Film Fest is produced by Daniel Salazar along with Tony Garcia, Su Teatro’s Executive Artistic Director. In the program for the festival Salazar states, “These are troubling times. We dread a mean spirited new era, bringing cuts and hardships to our community. Never fear XicanIndie is here! Bringing a whirlwind of Latino Cinema, music and celebration; un remedio (a cure) for a tumultuous, anxious time.

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Garcia describes the XicanIndie Filmfest as the first, the oldest and the finest. “It is the place to be to press flesh with those who are at the forefront of Latino World Cinema.” Other celebrities attending are Richard Montoya from Culture Clash, Producer, Lou Dematteis and lead actress Veronica Valencia for their film, The Other Barrio. Jorge Sandoval and Robb Garcia will present their film Las Tesoros De San Antonio: A Westside Story. see SuTeatro.org for details, trailers and tickets.



Review by glassworksmultimedia.com

In the 90’s, Cuba was suffering a fierce economic, political and social crisis that drowned the country in misery, hunger and desperation. Being the protagonist that music has always been in Cuba, it offered not just an escape but a means of expression during the most oppressive times in the nation’s history. As a result, a new generation of talented musicians and songwriters arose, carrying the torch for a people desperately seeking freedom of expression.

The Cuban government decided to freeze all exportation of art and shut off the world from the rich evolution that music was experiencing within the country’s borders. This led to decreasing career opportunities for Cuban musicians, on the island and abroad. While some chose to stay and fight the oppressive system from within, others felt forced to flee the island in hopes to save their art and survive. A Todo Color is a feature documentary that chronicles the story of these musicians.

The film stars seven main characters: Luis Barberia, Vanito Brown, Gema Corredera, Jorge Gomez, Yadam Glez, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez and Roberto Carcasses; artists whose lives were intertwined and bonded by their passion for music and their Cuban roots but their personal circumstances took them on vastly different journeys. The film brings their stories to light, from childhood to the current stage of their prolific careers.

Their strong inclination toward the arts resulted in a different upbringing to that of other children as their studies kept them from what would normally be play time. Their natural talents and hard work led them to an education in Cuba’s National Art School (ENA); a school where all of the nation’s artistic prodigies hope to study. The strict program mandated that students study only classical music, making it even more irresistible to experiment with foreign genres that had been forbidden in the island for decades. Upon graduation, their technical abilities, along with their artistic ambition and will to protest against the suffocating oppression, defined their generation as one ready to push contemporary Cuban music forward.

They were part of a society entering the Special Period, when experimental expressions of art were considered by the government as subversive and dangerous. In response, they constructed an underground music scene, sparked by informal gatherings that offered a platform for freely voicing their restlessness. However, they knew that they would never get the support from government-run institutions that had exclusive control over radio play, press, recording studios and live performance opportunities at official venues. For many, the only hope for professional success was to find a way out of the island; starting a new life in a foreign country against all odds.

Once again, these musicians had to build their careers from scratch; their music being as alien to their new audiences as they were. In order to insert themselves into those markets, they incorporated influences from these foreign environments in an effort to gain appeal. The result was a rich musical aesthetic that won the hearts of audiences all over the world and reintroduced Cuban music to the international market.

After nearly three decades of personal and professional growth, filled with both exceptionally difficult and rewarding experiences, these artists found themselves in some of the world’s biggest arenas. The cast has collected several Grammy nominations and awards, accompanied the greatest and most successful musicians of our time like Carlos Santana, Jack Bruce (of Cream) and Ketama among others. Finally, after many years away from home, Cuba’s political, social and cultural contexts are experiencing a change that is allowing them to return and share their art with an audience that, to their amazement, has faithfully clung to their music.

A Todo Color is a story of communion between people through art, using as leitmotif the personal lives and careers of these musicians and their connection with the generation of Cubans they represent. The film is driven by music and dives into extensive live performances by these iconic characters, captured and presented as concert film scenes.

Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media