History is most poignantly felt when filtered through the personal. Take Marcel Beltrán‘s Cuba-set film La música de las esferas (The Music of the Spheres). Ostensibly telling his parents’ love story, this family documentary actually tracks both the effects of post-revolution Cuba on the country’s elite as well as the tragic legacy of racism in the island. Beltrán’s father Mauricio and mother Regina met in the 1980s and while their courting had the makings of a romantic novel: equally committed to socialist ideals they ran into trouble when her father, a former wealthy landowner whose business was nationalized following Castro’s orders, refused to give his blessing to their interracial relationship. To him, Mauro—an artist committed to community-driven work—was beneath his daughter in every respect.
Beltrán traces their story with the help of archival videos and photos, old love letters, and a series of visits to many of the places where their life’s big events took place (Regina’s family home, Mauro’s workshop, their first house together). The Music of the Spheres weaves the personal and the historical deftly to show how policies as well as cultural biases rippled out in relationships across the island. At a screening of the movie at the Miami Film Festival, Beltrán got quite emotional presenting his finalized documentary to an audience that included many of his family members, including his grandma. Dedicated to his late father, who passed away while he was still working on the doc, La música de las esferas plays like a love letter to a couple who put love above all else.
As Beltrán put it in a Q&A following the screening, “This is a film that was born out of love, out of tenderness. It’s a film that tries very hard to, as much as possible, unite. It’s about bringing people together, not separating. I wanted to tell a story that begins at home, to tell that kind of family tale we all have where there’s always a moment where everything changes and there’s no turning back. For me, that was my father’s death. I had to look back trying to understand the causes, the motivations, the choices that made his life turn out the way it did; to look at the hardships he endured.” With soothing voice-over that waxes poetic about politics and philosophy running over carefully constructed still shots that show Beltrán inherited his parents’ artistic eye, The Music of the Spheres is a warmhearted portrait of family history that’s also an unlikely portrait of post-revolution Cuba.
Music of the Spheres screened as part of the Miami Film Festival.