I got the CD for Christmas and to be honest, only really like two or three tracks. But the film knocked my socks off.
It's effectively a series of film portraits of great Cuban musicians, a record of their music and a recording of two concerts where they all came together in Amsterdam and in Carnegie Hall. But the sum of its parts is far more than that.
The filming is clever - it moves easily from recording session to interview to monologue to just great music. There's no obvious trickery though I'm sure some slick editing went into making it so watchable. The way the sounds blend between sections is inspired.
Somehow, music that I found annoyingly sentimental and a bit raucous when I listened to it, became wonderfully sentimental and energetic when I was watching it. It's a bit like the difference between seeing a great musician live and listening to a recording. The musicians are clearly enjoying themselves and really feeling the music they're making. I love watching talented improvisers feeding off each other like that. And having fun!
I'm going to listen to the music again, properly, and see if I like it any better now... some of the singing is not really my thing but Gonzalez was so fantastic, and Barbarito Torres, and the percussionist whose name I can't remember...
Partly, there was a feeling that the project (not the film so much as Cooder's recordings with Juan de Marcos Gonzalez) was an attempt to capture this stuff before everyone who knows it dies. But what really shone through was a sense of life, vivacity, and love of music.