Benny Moré in Agnès Varda´s Salut les Cubains!

A film composed mainly of photographs edited together to music and a celebratory narration voiced by Michel Piccoli, with Agnès Varda occasionally interpolating  qualifying commentary like pointing out to us how Cuban men possessively drape their hand over the shoulders of their women. The photos were all taken from December 1961 to January 1962, four years after the revolution. They´re very beautiful and cover a wide range of Cuban culture and society: the revolution of course, illustrated with wonderful photographs of Fidel (above left), Raúl, Ché; but also cigar factories, educational campaigns, volunteer drives, ordinary people in museums or dancing in the streets; the cultural figures of the day from Alejo Carpentier to Wilfredo Lam (above centre). We also get to see a marvellous scene of a very young Sara Gomez, here Varda´s assistant, later a celebrated filmmaker in her own right, dancing (above right). My favourite of all is the marvellous sequence of the great Benny Moré, el bárbaro del ritmo,  singing ´may only Cuban women caress your face´, wishing you that luck and singing of the joy in his. It´s glorious collage of sights and sounds, rendered even more poignant by Moré dying in between the photos being taken and the film being released. A real treat.

José Arroyo

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