Remember back in the late nineties when fancy white folks all of a sudden went locos for Latin music? No, we’re not talking about Elvis Crespo or Los Ángeles Azules, but rather the nostalgia-inducing throwback sounds of Cuba’s Buena Vista Social Club. And, honestly, who could resist the charm of American guitarist and producer Ry Cooder’s quixotic “let’s get the band back together” project? Aside from the deeply soulful sounds of a long-forgotten Cuba there was also the moving narrative of triumphing over adversity, second chances, and the whole white savior thing that seems to go over pretty well with filmgoing audiences. And sure enough, director Wim Wender’s 1999 document of the album’s recording, also titled Buena Vista Social Club, managed to pick up an Oscar nomination while exploding into the stratosphere of documentary box office receipts.
And now, more than 15 years after the project was consummated and timeworn gods of Cuban music like Ibrahim Ferrer and Compay Segundo became household names, it seems another documentary is now in the works. This time around, the film will follow the gang in the years since they became an unprecedented international phenomenon, culminating with a series of homecoming concerts that brought the five original members back to their native Havana. Exactly how director Lucy Walker (Waste Land) plans to approach the project with so many of the group’s principal figures long passed will be a huge question mark, but there should be enough archival material for Walker to spin a compelling narrative of the group’s lives in the years immediately following the release of their breakout album.
It also happens that the group’s record label just released a series of previously unreleased tracks from the original recording sessions, entitled Lost and Found, back in March. From a marketing perspective some would call this “good timing,” but Walker certainly has the chops to pull off something more than a mere promo doc. Meantime, there will be even more reason for Latinos, fancy white folks, and all other citizens of the world to come together through that universal expression of hip-swaying sensuality that is the Buena Vista Social Club.