‘Buena Vista Social Club’ was one of the most memorable music docs of the ’90s. And no wonder – it’s an irresistible story: a group of Cuba’s best musicians brought out of retirement to perform together in a huge celebration of the country’s vibrant pre-revolutionary music scene. Wim Wenders’s Oscar-nominated documentary, which followed their first live performances, gained the group unexpected success and fans around the world.
So it was perhaps inevitable that at some point another filmmaker would revisit this rich subject matter. Lucy Walker’s new doc picks up where the first one left off, saying a fond adios to several original members of the group along the way. The individual stories of the stars are woven together, along with just enough historical and cultural context so that even newbies will be drawn in. The approach is pretty conventional, but the characters – from unassuming singer Ibrahim Ferrer to wonderfully glamorous Omara Portuondo – are so brilliant you’d struggle not to be swept up in it all.
Of course, centre stage is the music itself. At times it’s so heartfelt you’d be forgiven for having a little cry, and at others so infectious that I challenge you not to have a sneaky hip wiggle in your cinema seat.