The GuadaLAjara Film Festival in Los Angeles (GLAFF) was held from September 29th – October 1st with programming of films by Latin American filmmakers offered at their sister festival in June, the 37th Guadalajara International Film Festival (in Guadalajara, Mexico) and a special curated selection of films from Latinx/e and BIPOC filmmakers in the United States.
GLAFF’s Closing Night film is the documentary by Cuban American Director Hugo Perez, titled Omara, for the internationally known Cuban artist, Omara Portuondo. To many in the United States, Omara’s name came to be known for the legendary Buena Vista Social Club, but in fact she was an artist since her teens and the filmmaker provides the audience with the details of her youth.
The filmmaker provides photos and footage of Omara as a young teen in one group and then another with her elder sister Haydee where the two were dancers at Cuba’s Tropicana cabaret club. She danced with other groups and sang with others, but the most highlighted is the famous vocal group Cuarteto d’Aida, formed by Omara and Haydee, Elena Burke and Moraima Secada. There is historic footage. They toured and opened up shows for Nat King Cole.
While the film provides quite a bit of information on Omara’s career, there are parts of her life that are not disclosed to maintain her privacy. She does show emotion when she talks about when Cuarteto d’Aida went their separate ways, so did sister Haydee who stayed in the United States. Her son Ariel Jiménez serves as her manager and one of the Executive Producers of the film, but there is no talk of her former husband. Two things Omara is not in agreement with is being called a “diva” or other titles the fans or media have given her, and prefers not to be asked questions about age, aging, being “old” or abilities at this age. She certainly does have a sense of humor and can make grown men blush.
The film crew follows her travels and tours to the US, Europe and Tokyo, Japan. In 2019, Omara was awarded a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to Latin American and world music. Throughout the film, the cinematography of Matt Porwoll and Gary Griffin is spectacular.
Of course, the film provides information of the legendary Buena Vista Social Club and how many of her musical colleagues and friends have passed. Black and white images of Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén González and others from the original ensemble are added to the film that reveals the affectionate among them. The film also features interviews with such world-renowned musicians as Diego El Cigala, Roberto Fonseca, and Arturo O’Farrill.
The film had the world premiere in November 2021, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the recording of the landmark Cuban album “Buena Vista Social Club,” and continues the festival circuit. In Spanish and English with English subtitles. No news on a theatrical release available currently.
For more information on this festival and participation next year, visit www.glaff.org