The Black Roots of Salsa is a new documentary on Cuba’s rumba life, currently in post-production. As you can see below, the preview is stunning, so I caught up with its director and Zürich native, Christian Liebich, and he kindly agreed to explain what his film is about and what his plans are….
AHR: I understand that this film has not yet been released. What is it about, exactly?
CL: The movie is about the Black Roots of Salsa and the Evolucion of Rumba. It covers not only the musical aspects of this heritage but also dancing and the lived experience. It shows a complex culture through the lens of certain families who live their tradition and inherit them through the generations. The film starts with the state of contemporary Rumba, as shown by young practitioners in Havana. It also covers some of the genre’s history in its three variants: Yambu, Guaguancó and Columbia. As a non-religious manifestation, Rumba was accessible to a broad audience. Nonetheless its roots are set inside Afro-Cuban religions imported from Africa, namely the Abakua, Congo and Yoruba, all of which are covered in the documentary.
The film also addresses the history of Son, which received the ‘Clave’ from the Rumba, as well as the influence of both son and rumba in timba. Most of the material is shot in Habana, but there are some takes from Yoruba Andabo’ shows in Paris, Geneva and Madrid. Rumba culture is not just lived in the streets, it’s presented in theatres in Cuba and abroad.
AHR: Is this a full-length documentary? is it finished? Do you have a distributor? what are your plans for it?
CL: The editing is finished and the film is over two hours long (2″7′). We still do not have any distributor. We have submitted it to the New York International Latino Film Festival, which will take place in August 2010, but at this time we still do not know if it will be selected. Our hope is to premier it in NYC, and then screen it at Film and Salsa festivals everywhere possible, and then release it on DVD. Currently subtitles are available in English, Spanish and German, working on French, Italian and Japanese.
AHR: How did you become interested in rumba and what prompted you to do this documentary?
CL: I am a passionate Timba dancer and am fascinated by the complexity of Afro-Cuban culture. I was lucky to find very interesting characters like, mainly, Adonis Panter Calderon, who is producing the documentary with me. We started working together in this film in 2004. I am married to Ismaray Chacon ‘Aspirina’ who is the granddaughter of Luis Chacon ‘Aspirina’ and is deeply connected with her culture.
AHR: Is this your first film?
CL: I started with a handy cam in 2004 in Cuba. In 2007 together with my good friend Virna Hernandez, we did a film about a kids’ project entitled “La Rumba No Va a Morir” about a music and dance group led by Adonis Panter Calderón’s cousin Natividad Calderon Fiallo. That DVD is now in process. I have a Youtube channel with over sixty short clips.
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