Like many others, I was taught in high school math class that Colombia + Literature = Gabriel García Márquez. But while Gabo is undoubtedly one of the greatest wordsmiths in the history of Spanish letters, there’s a bit more to that equation than Mr. Nuñez let on… and his name is Andrés Caicedo.
Little known throughout Latin America, Caicedo was a mysterious figure whose gritty, urban realism explored the crude reality of his native Cali and stood in stark contrast to the Magical Realist fever that had swept international literary circles years earlier. And while his only published novel, ¡Qué Viva La Música! (1977) is widely considered a masterpiece, his suicide at the tender age of 25 — immediately after receiving the first edited edition of the novel — seemingly doomed his brief but prolific career to an afterthought.
That is, until Colombian filmmaker Carlos Moreno decided to make ¡Qué Viva La Musica! into a film. The fragmented, drug-infused story premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last week and follows an adolescent scion of Cali’s upper classes who embarks on a hedonistic descent from her insulated ivory tower existence into the sweaty, salsa-dancing popular barrios. While the material doesn’t immediately lend itself to the screen, Moreno’s unconventional, psychedelic approach seems to be a worthy translation of Caicedo’s work into the audiovisual language of cinema.
Much like the novel, ¡Qué Viva La Musica! (translated for Sundance audiences as Liveforever) features murder, suicide, sex, drugs and rock and roll, but more importantly: salsa. As Caicedo’s heroine affirms her existence in the face of upper class ennui, the soundtrack to her descent becomes a veritable back catalogue of Fania Records classics. The trailer itself features Puerto Rican plenero Mon Rivera’s “Lluvia con nieve” (a truly impressive dig through the proto-salsa record bin), as we watch our blonde protagonist dance with reckless abandon, surrounded by revelers donning masks and exposed breasts in what feels like a post-modern vision of hell. The opulent pool area where our heroine spins, shakes and skips herself into oblivion is worthy of an international CEO, who may or may not lie dead upstairs, murdered by his own son hours earlier (read the novel…)
In addition to forming part of Sundance’s 2015 official competition, ¡Qué Viva la Música! was featured in the festival’s noncompetitive sidebar, New Frontier, which showcases innovative and audacious works that push the bounds of cinema as we know it. Let’s just hope the filmed version inspires more dancing, and less tragic suicides.