Noche Cubana!

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Around this time, every year, we know we can finally enjoy some good Latin American film in the Bay Area thanks to the International Latino Film Festival. On Friday, the opening night was held, as usual, at the beautiful Castro Theatre and you could feel the excitement in the air for the premiere of this, the 12th edition of the festival.

For the first night they showed Cachao, Uno Más, a documentary about the Cuban mambo and descarga pioneer who passed out this year. The problem with the Festival’s opening night is the same every year: they invite people to come in at a certain time, then the movie doesn’t start until almost one hour later. I know some Latinos are know for being particularly unpunctual but for those of us who are not, waiting for a whole hour for a movie to start is no fun at all. Plus during that hour you have to listen to horrible organ music and endure some of the most boring speeches I’ve ever heard in my life. There is no popcorn that can make this wait bearable!

The movie was an odd selection for an opening night. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t what you’d expect for the biggest night of the festival. I’d expect a bigger production, something more significant. I’m not saying that Cachao isn’t significant, his music and his legacy deserved a movie, that’s for sure, but he deserved a movie with better camera work, editing and sound quality.

Actor Andy García produced this low-budget documentary and I’m pretty sure he has the money and contacts to make something better. Plus his participation in the movie ends up being annoying, at times it seems that the core message of the whole film is “Hey! Look how cool I am, I’m friends with Cachao!”

Anyway, having seen Cachao’s film, we all left the theatre feeling the urge for some good Cuban rumba and son and the festival promoters nailed it by booking John Santos and his band to play at the after party, which took place at the Kabuki Hotel in Japan Town. Cuban night for everybody! Plus, good food (empanadas!), free booze and the always-skillful DJ Nica on the mix playing mainstream Latin dance hits. Maybe too cheesy for my pseudo-hipster palate, especially when they had a couple of professional dancers doing some Dancing With The Stars-worthy routine (are we still in the Bay Area or have we been tele-transported to Miami?). But anyway, after the second margarita I put my cynical preconceptions aside and got down to the dancefloor to shake it to the reggeaetón beat